Updated: Jan 30, 2020
AUTHOR: Deborah Heiligman
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
PUBLISHED DATE: April 18, 2017
I really thought this was a beautiful book - a love story about brothers. I read this book for the 2018 Mock Printz, and I honestly wasn't prepared to like this book as much as I did...but here we are.
Coming into this book, about the only thing I knew about Vincent van Gogh was that he painted a very famous work - Starry Night. Other than that, I really didn't know much about the man, and had never thought much about him, to be honest. This narrative biography really does capture the life of this very complex character - his mental health issues, his loving yet overbearing family, his dark and twisty love interests, and perhaps his biggest champion, love and friend, his brother Theo.
Prior to this book, as my knowledge of the artist Vincent Van Gogh was fairly slight, my knowledge of Theo van Gogh was non existent. Through letters, a historical perspective of late 19th century Dutch politics and daily life, and events and paintings from the artist's life, Heiligman paints a truly realistic and relatable portrait of a larger than life family, and the complex brothers it produced. I am now whole heartedly committed to handwriting and mailing letters to my family members to preserve the love we have for one another.
In their own words, not the lofty words we are accustomed to hearing from figures from the late nineteenth century, reveals a van Gogh who simultaneously felt close to his family and their religious values, but also wanted to break away and live life on his own terms. Both the van Gogh brothers were hopeless romantics who chose partners who their parents' considered dishonorable, or endured the pangs of unrequited love. This book is mesmerizing. I would recommend this book to anyone regardless of whether they have an interest in the van Gogh brothers or not, because the writing and the story is really just this damn good.
Recommendation: Read it!
Audience: Young Adults and Up