Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

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Please join Heather Webb as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for Rodin's Lover, from January 19-February 13.

Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 320

Genre: Historical Fiction

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02_Rodin's LoverA mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France.

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.


I had heard the name Camille Claudel before reading Rodin’s Lover, but knew nothing about her.  Women artists interest me, but I had never previously read anything about a sculptor.   This means that I was completely uneducated about the methods and traditions of sculpture.  So I learned a great deal from this book about Camille Claudel, Auguste Rodin and sculpture in general.   Yet I felt that the Wikipedia article on Camille Claudel caused me to understand the general outline of her life better than Heather Webb’s novel, much of which is written from Claudel’s own perspective.

To say that Claudel was an unreliable narrator is to put it rather mildly.  She was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Schizophrenia covers a great many types of mental disease.  I consider it a vague catch-all diagnosis.  Camille Claudel had bouts of severe paranoia.  I noticed in the novel that she became much worse later in her life, and that hormones appeared to have an influence.  I know that hormone fluctuation is an important factor in the lives of bipolar women.  It seems likely, for example, that hormonal changes in the aftermath of pregnancy were probably the primary cause of the suicide of Chinese American writer Iris Chang. I wondered if women’s hormones had a similar effect on schizophrenia.  So I ran a search on schizophrenia and estrogen, and found the Wikipedia article that I’ve linked here.  The article does confirm the idea that lower levels of estrogen aggravate the condition.  

Yet Claudel was a brilliant sculptor.  There is a sample of Camille Claudel’s work and work by Rodin that the author of the article linked thought was influenced by Claudel at The Art of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin.  You can click on the images to get a larger version.  I really liked The Waltz which was considered indecent in Webb’s novel, so she created a clothed version which is the one that survives. 

I appreciated Camille Claudel’s conflict between love and independence from a feminist perspective.  It was not paranoid to want to have her own identity as an artist and not be considered an imitator of Rodin.    This is a problem that many people in the arts have had.  Literary critic Harold Bloom called it “the anxiety of influence”.    I felt that Heather Webb was portraying it as part of her pathology because she wavered so much between being primarily focused on art and being primarily focused on her relationship with Rodin.  She was continually breaking up with him, but I didn’t think it was always due to mental instability.    There were some legitimate reasons why being with Rodin wasn’t the best thing for her.  He helped her to get commissions and exhibit space, but Webb also shows him as having engaged in some stalker type behavior which was the real basis for her later paranoia about Rodin spying on her.   The lines between Claudel’s feminism and Claudel’s insanity seemed blurred in Rodin’s Lover, and it made reading this emotionally intense book an uncomfortable experience for me.

 I found Rodin's Lover to be highly reminiscent of I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira  about the ambivalent relationship between artists Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. I reviewed it on Book Babe here.  I wish that Camille Claudel and Mary Cassatt could have met.  I think they would have understood and supported each other as woman artists.

I received this book from the publisher via both First to Read and Net Galley in return for this honest review.

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About the Author

Heather WebbHeather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing. Her debut, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, released January 2014 from Plume/Penguin. Her forthcoming novel, RODIN'S LOVER, will release in winter of 2015.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information, please visit Heather's website. She loves to chitchat on Twitter with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb), on Facebook, or via her blog. Stop on by!

Rodin's Lover Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 19
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Review & Interview at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Tuesday, January 20
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, January 21

Thursday, January 22

Friday, January 23

Monday, January 26
Review at Poof Books

Tuesday, January 27
Review at Library Educated
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, January 28
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, January 29
Review at Book Babe

Friday, January 30
Review at Book Drunkard

Monday, February 2
Review at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, February 3
Interview at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, February 4
Review at Brooke Blogs

Thursday, February 5
Review at A Book Geek

Friday, February 6

Monday, February 9

Tuesday, February 10

Wednesday, February 11

Thursday, February 12

Friday, February 13


  1. Fast-paced and filled with raw emotion, Rodin's Lover is an impressive achievement, and a reminder of the power of great stories about great lives, whenever they were lived.

  2. This book about art is a piece of art. As I neared the end, I read more and more slowly in an effort to avoid the last page. This is a beautifully written story about two tortured souls and the time in which they live. I loved every word and wonder how many readers began Googling as I did after reading the final page.

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