Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. Deborah Heiligman. 2017. 464 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Theo's brother Vincent has been living with him for just over a year, and Theo cannot take it anymore.

Premise/plot: Love historical fiction? Love art? Love France? Consider reading Deborah Heiligman's new novel, Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. She tells their story in a compelling way, I think. But it isn't just the story of Vincent and Theo of their dependence on one another. It's also the story of Theo's wife, Jo. Without his sister-in-law's continual effort to keep Vincent's work alive after his death--to keep his work in front of the public, to make his name, his work KNOWN, would the world really have Vincent Van Gogh?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading this one. If enjoyed is the right word. It's emotional, dramatic, and well-researched. The first few chapters begin near the end. But for the most part, the book is arranged chronologically. Each chapter leaves readers with a strong impression; each captures a moment in time. Oh the tension! There's drama, frustration, confusion, heartache, disappointment, loneliness, despair, love, and passion. There's a definite feeling of lost-ness hanging over the novel. Both brothers suffer from mental health issues--among other things.

The book is strongly influenced by his art. There are certain works that really impact how the story is told and arranged. For example, Vincent's picture of the Windmill became a symbol of the bond between the brothers. She states in the author's note that finding this work and realizing its significance was THE moment she found her book.
This walk in the rain seals their friendship, deepens it. Later both brothers will refer to it as a meeting of the minds, of the time they made a pledge to each other. They will always remember this day. Theo will use the walk in argument. So will Vincent. The brothers will come back to it again and again. It is an anchor, a promise of the future, a touchstone. (49)

I would recommend that readers also pick up a copy of Impressionism: 13 Artists Children Should Know by Florian Heine. It does NOT include Vincent Van Gogh, but, it does include many of his contemporaries. He knew several of these artists well; his work was exhibited alongside theirs.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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Paula Vince said...

Wow, I've always been fascinated by these two brothers, and wondered more about their lives. Will have to put this on my TBR pile.

Tamara said...

Unlike you & Paula (above) I dont think I really knew much about Theo... I think I have my own love hate relationship with Vincent... could be worth visiting this book sometime soon

Jeanie said...

I think I should very much enjoy this one! I love the work of Van Gogh and know very little about Theo apart from their brotherly relationship. It would be fascinating to learn more of Jo too. Thanks for posting this one. (Don't you love Paris In July?)

~jeanie from Marmelade Gypsy