These Good Hands
A NovelBook - 2015
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 #65533;poque 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.