Set in the early autumn of 1943, These Good Hands interweaves the biography of French sculptor Camille Claudel and the story of the nurse who cares for her during the final days of her thirty-year incarceration in France’s Montdevergues Asylum.
Biographers have suggested that Claudel survived her long internment by writing letters, few of which left the asylum because of her strict sequestration; in Bruneau’s novel, these letters are reimagined in a series, penned to her younger self, the sculptor, popularly known as Rodin’s tragic mistress. They trace the trajectory of her career in Belle Époque Paris and her descent into the stigmatizing illness that destroyed it. The nurse’s story is revealed in her journal, which describes her labours and the ethical dilemma she eventually confronts. Through her letters, Camille relives the limits of her perseverance; through Camille’s journal, Nurse confronts limits of hers own: in the faith these women have in themselves, in the then-current advances in psychiatric medicine, and in a God whose existence is challenged by the war raging outside the enclosed world of the asylum.
In her dying days, Camille teaches the nurse lessons in compassion and, ultimately, in what it means to endure.
“A gripping novel with poetic insights into human behaviour and a rich sense of place.” - The Chronicle-Herald
“The novel’s strength flows from Claudel’s fiery voice. Her prose is as lyrical as her sculpture … there is a realistic complexity and ambiguity … to which Bruneau and Claudel do not so much explore as bear witness.” - Atlantic Books Today
“I once lived in Philadelphia, not far from an outdoor park filled with Rodin sculptures … I walked among [them], touching them, feeling the power. I had the same reaction to These Good Hands, Carol Bruneau’s indelible novel of age, mental disorder and beauty.” - The Sun Times
“Compassionate and richly textured, These Good Hands, is one of those rare stories of female friendship that makes us grow in unsuspecting ways.” - Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night
“A definite recommended read. I really came to connect, sympathize, and understand these characters. Camille in particular felt extraordinarily real. I connected with her passion and her desire to get more out of life. Bruneau has woven a powerful story that takes place alongside WWII, with characters who spring to life off of the page.” - Worn Pages and Ink
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