Leaving Van Gogh: A Novel

Leaving Van Gogh: A Novel

4.1 13
by Carol Wallace

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In the summer of 1890, in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver.  He died two days later, at the age of thirty-seven, largely unknown despite having completed over two thousand works of art that would go on to become some of the most important and valued in the world. 


In the summer of 1890, in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver.  He died two days later, at the age of thirty-seven, largely unknown despite having completed over two thousand works of art that would go on to become some of the most important and valued in the world.          

In this riveting novel, Carol Wallace brilliantly navigates the mysteries surrounding the master artist’s death, relying on meticulous research to paint an indelible portrait of Van Gogh’s final days—and the friendship that may or may not have destroyed him. Telling Van Gogh’s story from an utterly new perspective—that of his personal physician, Dr. Gachet, specialist in mental illness and great lover of the arts—Wallace allows us to view the legendary painter as we’ve never seen him before.  In our narrator’s eyes, Van Gogh is an irresistible puzzle, a man whose mind, plagued by demons, poses the most potentially rewarding challenge of Gachet’s career. 

Wallace’s narrative brims with suspense and rich psychological insight as it tackles haunting questions about Van Gogh’s fate. A masterly, gripping novel that explores the price of creativity, Leaving Van Gogh is a luminous story about what it means to live authentically, and the power and limits of friendship.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Meet the Author

Carol Wallace is the author of numerous books, including The Official Preppy Handbook, which she coauthored. Leaving Van Gogh is her first historical novel. A graduate of Princeton University, Wallace received a M.A. in art history from Columbia University in 2006. The research for her M.A. thesis provided the foundation for Leaving Van Gogh. Wallace lives in New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Leaving Van Gogh 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
RuthieKro More than 1 year ago
An interesting look at the genius of VanGogh and his painting and also at his relationship with his brother, Theo. Beyond VanGogh personally the focus is on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness at the end of the nineteenth century. It's a heartbreaking story and one that continues to come back to mind. I highly recommend it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1890, Vincent van Gogh moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, France to paint in the serene rustic environment. His brother Theo asks mental health specialist Dr. Paul Gachet, known for his artistic inclinations, to keep a close watch on his troubled sibling. As a patron of the fine arts, Gachet agrees. The physician finds the artist's work incredible, but fears for the anguished man. He tries to comfort the tormented van Gogh and prepare Vincent's family for the seemingly inevitable as the illnesses that torture van Gogh's mind continue to grow. Ten weeks after the doctor was retained, his only patient committed suicide. This is an intriguing biographical fiction that looks at van Gogh through the filter of the real doctor (van Gogh did a portrait of Gachet) who treated him in the months of his life. That perspective allows a fresh view, but also adds a degree of separation from the artist. Still this is a strong historical as Carol Wallace paints a vivid picture of medical profession at the end of the nineteenth century as the doctor struggles to help a difficult talented artist with a strange illness. Harriet Klausner
Rosie6 More than 1 year ago
Leaving Van Gogh is more about mental illness at the end of the 19th century than about Van Gogh himself.  There was a parallel story about the depression of Dr. Gachet and the mental torments of Van Gogh,  Van Gogh was a prolific letter writer.  I wish there was more than just a mention in the book.The bond of two brothers, Vincent and Theo, was nicely detailed.  
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nyauthoress More than 1 year ago
What might it feel like to be a brilliant painter wrapped in a straitjacket? Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace, published by Random House, probes the frustration felt by the artist who had been in an insane asylum for a year. The novel is told from the perspective of Dr. Gachet, the artist's psychiatrist, whose own grief and sense of helplessness add to the melancholy that pervades the book. Leaving Van Gogh is a brave, well-researched and compassionate account of the relationship between the two men and the last months of the great painter's life. Wallace aptly portrays enigmatic Vincent Van Gogh, the prolific artist, who painted to quiet the demons in his head and because he felt his art could help the world. Dr. Gachet, psychiatrist and friend, observes a mellow, tender man who experienced occasional flashes of rage followed by despondency. Not a biography of Van Gogh, the book rather traces the relationship between the two men and aptly captures Dr. Gachet's frustration at his futile attempts to treat a man he comes to care about deeply. Ms. Wallace, an art historian, researched not only Van Gogh's 900 letters but also nineteenth century understandings of mental illness. In an interview, she relates how Van Gogh "hijacked the narrative" originally intended to focus on Dr. Gachet. She paints both men with sympathy and clarity. Clouds of sadness mingled with descriptions of dazzling paintings drift over this dark novel about the last year of Vincent Van Gogh's life. I thank LibraryThing and Random House for providing a review copy. The opinions expressed are unbiased and wholly that of the reviewer. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
pmorris More than 1 year ago
"I held Vincent's skull in my hands yesterday." So starts this beautifully written historical novel about Van Gogh's last days, as seen from the eyes of his physician, Dr. Gachet. Wallace's sensitive, fascinating account of Van Gogh transcends the myths to reveal a sensitive man who was driven to paint in an earnest effort to help others better understand, and be moved by, the natural world around them. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. Just loved it.
ReadingQueen12-17 More than 1 year ago
Boy it has been a long time since I've disliked a book this much. I've always said the measure by which I determine a book is good or bad is the degree to which I anticipate the ending. In the case of some of my all time favorites, the thinner the space between my current page and the back cover, the more melancholy I become. However, in those cases where I'm not really enjoying the book, that back cover can't come soon enough. In the case of Leaving Van Gogh, I felt like I was on a proverbial hamster wheel submerged in molasses on a reading path to hell. I have never, and I repeat NEVER been so happy, so relieved, so purely liberated then I was when I finished this book. If "boring" was a meal, Leaving Van Gogh was a BOGO special at Old Country Buffet. Cleverly disguised as a charming historical fiction novel about one of the more controversial and beloved impressionist painters in history (the cover is even blissful and yes, I often judge a book, etc), this book as actually a ridiculously drawn out report about 19th century mental health treatment. To be fair, that, too, might not have been all bad if not for this author's horrific propensity towards repetition and interminable descriptions of just how depressed Vincent Van Gogh really was. The man fell in love with his cousin, cut off his ear and then painted pictures of giant flowers. I don't know that his mania requires a TON of explanation. Maybe my expectations were completely off center but there is no excuse for just how boring this book is. Pun intended; you'd literally be better advised to watch paint dry