The Last Van Gogh

( 11 )

Overview

Summer, 1890. Van Gogh arrives at Auvers-sur-Oise, a bucolic French village that lures city artists to the country. It is here that twenty-year-old Maurguerite Gachet has grown up, attending to her father and brother ever since her mother's death. And it is here that Vincent Van Gogh will spend his last summer, under the care of Doctor Gachet - homeopathic doctor, dilettante painter, and collector. In these last days of his life, Van Gogh will create over 70 paintings, two of them portraits of Marguerite Gachet. ...

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The Last Van Gogh

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Overview

Summer, 1890. Van Gogh arrives at Auvers-sur-Oise, a bucolic French village that lures city artists to the country. It is here that twenty-year-old Maurguerite Gachet has grown up, attending to her father and brother ever since her mother's death. And it is here that Vincent Van Gogh will spend his last summer, under the care of Doctor Gachet - homeopathic doctor, dilettante painter, and collector. In these last days of his life, Van Gogh will create over 70 paintings, two of them portraits of Marguerite Gachet. But little does he know that, while capturing Marguerite and her garden on canvas, he will also capture her heart.

Both a love story and historical novel, The Last Van Gogh recreates the final months of Vincent's life - and the tragic relationship between a young girl brimming with hope and an artist teetering on despair.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Richman (The Mask Carver's Son; Swedish Tango) speculates in her third novel that Vincent Van Gogh found his muse in the 21-year-old daughter of his last doctor. Marguerite Gachet, accustomed to her father's revolving door of artist patients (Cezanne, Pissarro, Bernard among them), finds herself enamored of the disheveled Van Gogh ("a rare blend of vulnerability and bravado") shortly after his arrival at her father's home in Auvers, where Van Gogh undergoes treatment for his manifold illnesses. Though Marguerite is little more than a servant to her father, a failed painter turned physician who prides himself to an absurd extent on his art collection, she manages, with the help of her cloistered half-sister, to begin a covert flirtation with Van Gogh. Between sitting-thrice-for Van Gogh and carrying on her household duties, Marguerite uncovers a family secret and has a clandestine rendezvous with the painter. Though Marguerite's frustrated love is carefully rendered, other characters are mostly memorable for their quirks (her father, the failed painter; her brother, the goofy sycophant; her half-sister, the gold-hearted sage). The climax may be a bit breathless, but, then again, Van Gogh isn't remembered for his subtlety. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Vincent van Gogh spent the last two months of his life in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, under the care of Doctor Gachet, a homeopath and aspiring artist. Richman (Swedish Tango) portrays that time from the perspective of Gachet's 20-year-old daughter, Marguerite, the subject of two of Van Gogh's paintings. Rigidly obedient to her widowed father, Marguerite seems little more than a servant to him, her brother, and two women who remain hidden from society, Madame Chevalier and Louise-Josephine. With Louise-Josephine's encouragement and help, Marguerite arranges clandestine encounters with the artist. After posing for his last painting, she spends the rest of her life under the domination of her father and her cruel and jealous brother. The characters of Gachet's household are strange and unlikable; one wishes Van Gogh could flee to Paris to escape. Marguerite's repression seems so extreme that she likely would have pursued any eligible male visitor allowed to interact with her, and although Van Gogh responds with passion, he remains focused on his work. Libraries with large fiction collections may want a copy, but they should also have materials about Van Gogh's life and art for those wanting to know more. Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another in the ever-expanding genre of possible romances between famous painters and their subjects. The real-life van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life, an artistically prolific period, in Auvers-sur-Oise under the care of Dr. Gachet, a homeopathic physician. Richman (Swedish Tango, 2004, etc.) re-envisions those weeks in 1890 by focusing on the doctor's daughter, Marguerite. Approaching 21, she has spent her childhood isolated with her younger brother, who is cared for by Madame Chevalier, a "governess" who is clearly their father's mistress. Madame's daughter, Louise-Josephine (probably Marguerite's half-sister), has recently joined the eccentric household. A would-be painter with a growing art collection, Dr. Gachet does not allow mixing with the townspeople. Marguerite, a gifted pianist and gardener who yearns for experience in the world, is immediately attracted to van Gogh, who seems serious and physically fragile but relatively sane. Smitten himself, he asks Dr. Gachet's permission to paint Marguerite. He portrays her first in the garden, capturing her loneliness, then at the piano, showing her beauty. As their flirtation deepens, Marguerite also begins to forge a genuine friendship with Louise-Josephine, who regularly sneaks out to meet her local sweetheart. Soon, Marguerite is doing the same to meet Vincent. But a visit to his brother in Paris leaves van Gogh distraught. He explains that given his limited energy and funds, he cannot afford to marry, but he gives Marguerite a third portrait, hidden in their private cave: "It will always be here for you," he promises. Dr. Gachet catches her returning and sequesters her at home. Days later, van Gogh shoots himself.When Louise-Josephine, the story's only truly healthy character, marries and suggests that Marguerite come to Paris, Marguerite chooses to remain in Auvers-sur-Oise, to be near Vincent's painting. Despite Richman's talent with visual detail, nothing new about van Gogh is illuminated, and wan Marguerite never comes fully to life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425212677
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/3/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 119,830
  • Product dimensions: 5.59 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Alyson Richman graduated from Wellesley College in 1994. She lives with her husband and son.

Alyson Richman is the author of The Mask Carver’s Son, Swedish Tango, and The Last Van Gogh. She lives in Long Island with her husband and two children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Giving some, taking more

    Marguerite is 21 when Vincent Van Gogh arrives at her father's door for medical/psychological treatment. Dr. Gachet practices from his home, so Marguerite has ample opportunity to interact with the artist. She is drawn to Vincent, who is enormously talented but emotionally fragile, and in a very short time, they fall in love, in spite of the disapproval of her father and brother. Their romance is the pivot around which this novel revolves.

    What works best in this story is the depiction of the plight of women around the turn of the twentieth century. Dr. Gachet, as portrayed here, is an incredibly selfish man with questionable personal and professional ethics. The life of Marguerite, as well as those of her father's mistress and illegitimate daughter, are under his absolute control, which he wields with chilling disregard for their own preferences or ambitions. He cultivates artists as patients because it gives him access to their paintings, which he covets and accepts as payment. He makes liberal use of homemade herbal tinctures with limited understanding their pharmacology.

    What does not work particularly well is the author's characterization of Vincent, who in this book serves as the catalyst for Marguerite's story and not as a fully developed protagonist. His tragic struggle with depression is described rather than shown, and he comes across as more ghostly than vibrant in the scenes in which he is physically present.

    The Last Van Gogh is a bittersweet love story, but those wishing to know more about the artist will find little of value here.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Fun and easy read

    This is an easy read! I breezed through it. It is a nice story though, and I enjoyed reading it.
    I much preferred and highly recommend "With Violets" by Elizabeth Robards, she is an incredibly talented writer who also chose to write a fictional novel on a well known artist. It is much more emotional also

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    In 1890 an ailing Vincent van Gogh arrives at Auvers-sur-Oise, France seeking help from homeopathic Dr. Gachet. The artist finds an odd household awaits him as the widower physician has two children, twenty years old suppressed daughter Marguerite and a younger brother of no consequence to Vincent. The child also has governess Madame Chevalier, whom van Gogh assumes is the doctor¿s mistress. Finally, Chevalier¿s adult daughter Louise-Josephine joins the mix. --- A talented pianist Marguerite finds a connection to van Gogh as she would love to escape her gilded cage and see the world. She thinks the frail van Gogh might be her ticket. The painter also likes the youthful enthusiasm of the young woman and asks her father if he can paint her. Obtaining permission, he begins a series of paintings that depict a girl becoming a woman but also emphasizes her loneliness. As they begin a tryst, he tells her he cannot marry her, but gives her a painting of her to keep before her father realizes what is happening and locks her way not long afterward van Gogh killed himself. --- This historical fiction actually centers more on Marguerite than on van Gogh with the premise being that she was his muse during his last seventy days of life, in which he provided an extraordinary explosion of masterpieces. The story line is intriguing however, the support cast (including van Gogh) comes across as more fascinating and fuller than the lead protagonist. Still the vivid colorful look at the final days brings the era to life along with some insight into the demons eating at the artist. Readers of biographical fiction will enjoy this account of the LAST VAN GOGH from the perspective of his final inspiration. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2013

    Artful

    I really liked this story. It was an easy, quick read with believable characters and a good story line. It could've been even longer with more depth to the story, though. I recommend it. Would be a great summer read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2012

    Great easy read

    Loved this book

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  • Posted September 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    As Seen From a Lover's Perspective.

    An incredibly easy read that stands slightly above mediocre. The effort at painting the world around Van Gogh is satisfying with it's well-chosen colorful descriptives. Although the wonderments & thoughts are not lacking, it is missing a certain in-depth texture and that is probably due to a limited point of view. Or the author not fully extrapolating further and so you'll find some scenes too short to be considered satisfactory. The flow of the story is not terribly slow, it does transition when it needs be and complements the subtleness of the story. Altogether, this is an interesting concept that could very well have been possible during Van Gogh's last seventy days.*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    Outstanding period piece about the last 3 months of Van Gogh's life.

    Wonderful story about Van Gogh and the parallel story of the young woman he admired and maybe loved. Refreshing look at the final 70 days or so of Van Gogh's life and the secretive home he was brought into to receive care. Great long weekend book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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