Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace

Leaving Van Gogh: A NovelLeaving Van Gogh: A Novel by Carol Wallace

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Based on some historical fact, this is the story of the last days of Van Gogh. He resides in the small village of Auvers and is befriended by Dr. Gachet ( an actual person who Van Gogh once painted). Dr. Gachet struggles unsuccessfully to help Van Gogh through his mental instability and may have been instrumental in his suicide.

Doesn't sound like a meaty plot, does it? That's because it isn't. If I didn't love Van Gogh so much I would have found this one tedious in the extreme. Nothing happens! Van Gogh paints an amazing canvas, no one is going to ever buy it in his lifetime, so he is impoverished and supported by his loving but in the last stages of syphlis brother Theo who also has a family to provide for, Vincent has an episode of hysteria or maybe epilepsy and on and on. This is helped along by LOTS of internal musings by good old Dr. Gachet.

However, did I mention I love Van Gogh? So I enjoyed imagining him and fleshing him out as a human a little more. I had always heard about his difficult life and depression but this gave some more detail. I also thought more about how many great masters of art, literature or music have been "mad" or had physical difficulties like Beethoven's deafness. In modern times, perhaps many of them may have been diagnosed as bi-polar. So, while this didn't have an urgent plot, it did have some great information about my favorite artist and I really liked that.

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