In 2005, Rose Forcir unearths a cache of well-preserved letters written by her grandmother over one hundred years earlier. These letters resurrect a lingering suspicion of Rose’s. Was her grandmother the friend, muse, and lover of Vincent van Gogh? Was the painting La Croqueuse du Jardin, which still graces the dining room wall of the family home, painted by this genius? In the spring of 1889, Emma du Jardin collapses after the sudden death of her baby, and her husband removes her from their comfortable home in Paris to the asylum of St. Paul de Mausole in far away Provence. During the months of her confinement, Emma writes frequently to her dear sister, Dominique, recalling her formerly happy life in Paris, wondering about the opening of the Exposition Universelle featuring the new Tour d'Eiffel, chronicling the lushness of Provence in the spring, and the describing the treatments for mental illness practiced at the time. Emma’s letters further recount her struggle to regain her emotional balance, her attempts to puzzle out her husband’s seeming indifference, and her life with the eccentric asylum residents. Most intriguingly, in bold, sensuous strokes Emma reveals the developing relationship between a fellow resident and painter named Vincent and herself. Her affair with the mysterious Vincent helps Emma gain the insight and courage she needs to pursue a new way of life upon leaving the asylum.
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