Oh, my heart. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This story is heartbreaking and yet families even today are touched by mental illness and the themes play out the same. I will not be able to look at Vincent’s art the same way again.
The Van Gogh family story especially the relationship between Vincent and Theo was messy. Large, close families are not immune to petty squabbles, jealousy, and all the daily nonsense that we humans put each other through. The story gets into some adult themes, and I’d save this for older teens. The only thing that stood out as YA were the short chapters- which I enjoyed.
I’d not read much about Van Gogh. I learned quite a lot when the Art Institute had a dedicated exhibit to him, but even if you read all the displays as I did- much of the book will be completely new information to you. The letters that provided much of the research for this book are an invaluable treasure. I wonder if we aren’t headed into another dark age as all our records and interactions are now digital?
I thought the simplicity of the text struck just the right tone- direct, honest, and original, much like Vincent’s own paintings. What a surprise to find I came away from this book with a deeper understanding of Vincent and his art and the love the Van Gogh brothers had for each other. I found it telling that when Theo was about to be engaged he wrote to his fiance and told her, ” I have a brother.” Much like you would tell anyone of a lifelong commitment.
I wish I had a high school student now because the rabbit trails off this book could take months. You’ve got art, history, medicine, mental health, so much to springboard off of. It’s in my top five books that I’ve read in 2017.
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers By Deborah Heiligman