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Leaving Van Gogh

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  887 ratings  ·  194 reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2011)
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The "Can't Wait" Books of 2011
331st out of 625 books — 1,838 voters
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2nd out of 53 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

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This was an interesting book. I chose it because I love art and I am always interested in the artists who create the art I love. I have always thought Van Gogh to be an tragic and fascinating human being.

This book is a fictionalized account of the end of his life told from the perspective of the real man who became his doctor and friend and who was also an artist. I liked the perspective because the reader gets to see Van Gogh and other artists as real people interacting with other people.

I real
I was really looking forward to the arrival of this book. After all, sad books need love too! I even loved the first lines...

"I held Vincent's skull in my hands. It was a strange and melancholy moment."

...but my love faltered midway through the reading. As the story dragged on I found it harder and harder to pick the book back up. It was so promising! I knew it wasn't going to be barrels of sunshine, but I never expected it to be boring. Le sigh.
Wow. I am a lover of historical fiction and I am an arts educator. I won this book in a giveaway and it was perfect for me. I have always liked Tracey Chavalier and was eager to read this book expecting it to be in a similar to her style. I was pleasantly wrong. I was hooked on the first sentence and could not put this book down. Carol Wallace did a superb job in researching this book and I felt as if I were reading the actual memoirs of Dr. Cachet and that I was given the opportunity to acquire ...more
Where to begin? This book captured my heart from its first pages and it still hasn't let go. Vincent van Gogh was a man of supreme artistic brilliance but a true lost soul when it came to living in the real world. Without the undying support of his brother Theo we might never have known the beauty of his Sunflowers or the glory of his Starry Night. His works were a passion of mine as I studied art history and they remain amongst my favorite pieces of art.

Ms. Wallace imagines the last months of v
Sep 15, 2012 Ms.pegasus rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art lovers
Shelves: fiction, art-history
Author Carol Wallace tackles a tough literary project, creating a fictional work about famed artist Vincent Van Gogh in the final year of his life. Readers will already have formed preconceptions about the artist. Integrating her own viewpoint with a core of historical accuracy, and expressing this through fictional conversations and thoughts is not an easy task. Wallace applies several ingenious approaches to the problem.

The story is narrated through the eyes of Dr. Paul Gachet, a physician wit
3 1/2 stars. Dr. Gachet tried to treat the mental illness of Vincent Van Gogh as well as being his friend during the final days of Van Gogh's life, and this fictionalized memoir (or what do you call this genre?) is told from the doctor's viewpoint. Most of us know that Van Gogh's work is beautiful and startling but there are lots of us who know little about the artist other than that he cut off his own ear. Well, not the whole ear, as it turns out. How can such a disturbed person find and create ...more
This was a difficult book to read, maybe because his tragic life is known. You knew there was no happy ending and were compelled to continue to watch him spiral down through the eyes of his "doctor" and friend.

"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 im
Based on some historical fact, this is the story of the last days of Van Gogh. He resides in the small village of Auvers and is befriended by Dr. Gachet ( an actual person who Van Gogh once painted). Dr. Gachet struggles unsuccessfully to help Van Gogh through his mental instability and may have been instrumental in his suicide.

Doesn't sound like a meaty plot, does it? That's because it isn't. If I didn't love Van Gogh so much I would have found this one tedious in the extreme. Nothing happens
J.M. Cornwell
Poignant and sad fantasy of Vincent Van Gogh’s last days.

It may have been Dr. Gachet’s painting or simply his name in conjunction with another painter that sparked Carol Wallace’s interest in Vincent Van Gogh’s last months in bucolic Auvers, but Dr. Gachet is imagined into existence. All of this seems to come from Van Gogh’s portrait of the psychiatrist who unofficially treated him.

Much about Van Gogh’s life is known and has been fully chronicled. Wallace gives depth and weight to the quiet da
I really had higher hopes for this book. I'm intrigued by Van Gogh, not only with his paintings, but his complex personality and life.

I felt, however, a bit left behind by this book. I think of painting as a visual art (obviously), so I found myself wading through a lot of technical aspects of painting as well as descriptions of paintings themselves-- which somehow lost something in the translation through prose.
I suppose it's rather like trying to explain to a blind person how a painting looks,
I have mixed feelings about historical fiction, so I'll admit I bought this book because the cover was so pretty. Sure am glad I did though- my reasoning was the only shallow thing about the book. First drawn in by Dr. Gachet's own story of treating his wife and artist friends, I was captured by the vivid depiction of Vincent Van Gogh himself.
The scenes with Van Gogh are some of the most riveting I have encountered in any historical fiction novel, and truly illustrates the artist as a strugglin
I really enjoyed this story presented as told by Dr. Paul Gachet; a doctor specializing in mental illness and true final friend in the life of Vincent Van Gogh. The novel is narrated with such beautiful and disturbing details, I could picture the artist fervently at work and bring images of some popuar and some lesser known works to mind. The last days of Van Gogh's life are so vividly and lovingly exposed that it drove me to my own personal madness to finish the book. I feel that it is fortunat ...more
Reading this novel sent me to the internet to look up several paintings by Van Gogh referenced in this book, most notably the portrait of our narrator, Dr. Gachet. The good doctor tells this story while looking back on his life. These are memories of the few months the brilliant Vincent Van Gogh was in his care in his hometown of Auvers. The painter's brother, Theo, approached Dr. Gachet about helping watch over Vincent, and arrangements were made. Dr. Gachet specialized in psycholgical cases, " ...more
What an enjoyable read! I'm not big on historical fiction but I liked how Wallace's writing is so visual and absorbing. I felt as though I was apart of this "changing" late 19th century society filled with avant garde artists and the mentally ill. I was most touched by the intimate relationship between Vincent & Theo.

The story is written from Dr. Gachet's perspective. Theo Van Gogh's requested that the doctor agree to treat his brother, who had just come out of the asylum. Dr. Gachet was ch
I prefer to read mysteries set in France but of course, there is no mystery as to how this story was going to end. However, I am a fan of Van Gogh and have visited Arles, France, where he lived. So I wanted to give this book a chance. I was not disappointed.
"Leaving Van Gogh" is told from the standpoint of Dr. Gachet, who helped care for Vincent the last few months of his life. Yes, I did cry at the end. But I also found a lot of comfort and intellectual food for thought on some heavy topics: t
This is the very well told story of Vincent Van Gogh through the eyes and ears of his physician, Dr. Gachet, who became immediately not just his doctor but a trusted and loved friend. And it is a bit more about the doctor than Vincent. It is Dr. Gachet's thoughts, ideas, perceptions that permeate this book.

As a young doctor,Dr. Gachet finally lands on the "mad" patient as his expertise, "Yet our mad patients drew my interest as no other had. There seemed to be so little, sometimes, between us."
Rena Sherwood
This review originally appeared on my blog Why Van Gogh Matters

If you liked Lust for Life (1934) by Irving Stone, then you are going to be really disappointed with Carol Wallace's Leaving Van Gogh (2011.) Stone did the historical novel thing so much better and with far more intensity and focus than Wallace's rather sloppy word-portrait of both Vincent Van Gogh and his last therapist, Dr. Paul Gachet (yes -- the same Dr.Gachet of the infamous portraits.)

Apr 14, 2012 Joan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: adult
Wallace chooses an excellent narrator for this novel based on the last days of Van Gogh. His doctor/friend/art lover - Dr. Gachet tells the story from an objective, yet sympathetic point of view. The close relationship between Vincent and his brother Theo is also explored.The author has done her research and thoroughly explains the fiction and the fact of this fascinating story. Makes the reader appreciate the advances in mental and physical healthcare in the past 120 years.
The Lit Bitch
You cannot help but be drawn into this book, like one of Van Gogh’s paintings the reader suddenly enters into a world entirely different than their own you cannot help but finish this book and look at Van Gogh’s works (or your own world for that matter) with new eyes….it’s like seeing his works and life with a new eyes and perspective. Five out of five starts, brushes down!
See my full review here
A good historical fiction novel that combines medicine and art. Keep an art book of Van Gogh on hand to reference the paintings described in the book. It helped give a true vision of what the artist was trying to convey.

“There I was, a haunted man, with the gay yellow books and the bells of the foxglove pressed up to the front of the picture. The angle of the flowers echoed the way my body leaned to the side of the canvas, so that they yellow books somehow held us steady. But for all the physica
Kari Shepherd
This book did not hold my interest very well; I was more interested in the doctor's stories about mentally ill patients than I was about Van Gogh's life. Also it makes doctor-assisted suicide sound almost ok, which I definitely do not agree with.
Debbie Gulley

I truly enjoyed this book. Loved the author's insights into that century's look at mental illness and also how it affects the person and people around them.
Lorri Steinbacher
Good, but kind of predictable. Solid on the facts, spun an interesting enough story around them, but it failed to move me in any significant way.
I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book; I picked it randomly off the shelf in my local library, without high hopes. Usually picking randomly does not end with me satisfied, but this time, I had hope. I dove right in and loved the first 100 pages or so. It was fascinating, seemed semi-realistic, and was colourful. Then, I put the book down for the day. I returned to it the following day and ate up another 50 pages, but was less into it. Something seemed repetitive in the story. I returned t ...more
Always makes me sad that he had no idea what would become of his art. Or did he? Enjoyed the book very much.
Barbara Auito
My love for all things 'Van Gogh' probably taints my judgement of this book to be more favorable that it really is; however, having read 'Sunflowers,' a fictional perspective of the rumored prostitute with whom he spent with in Arles, this novel offered a very different telling. The story is told by his Dr. Gatchet, the last to treat him before he commited suicide. A chronicle of the last years of his life spent in torment, it is an excellent telling of the tragedy and wretchedness of a man both ...more
When you stand in front of a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, you are touched by his amazing talent. I have been fortunate to have experienced Van Gogh at the Museum in Amsterdam and many more places, including a recent show in San Francisco at the De Young Art Musuem that had and exhibit from the Musee D'Orsey, Paris, which contained a few painting from the Auvers period of his work. I was impressed by the paintings from that period because of the mastery of the technique Van Gogh had been develop ...more
For the last two months of his life, Vincent van Gogh lived outside of Paris in the small town of Auvers, France, under the care of Dr. Gachet. In Carol Wallace's novel Leaving Van Gogh, Dr. Gachet narrates the events of that short time period and provides a window into van Gogh's mind toward the end of his tragically short life.

Vincent van Gogh is such an intriguing character. He was undeniably an artistic genius, though many at the time didn't recognize his brilliance because he was too far ou
Jul 25, 2011 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: art lovers, historical fiction fans
Recommended to Carol by: Bank Square Books
What little I know about artists and art history centers around the Impressionists and post-Impressionists (having had to self-educate prior to chaperoning a trip to France with a group of ninth graders a few years ago). I'm always a little nervous about reading historical fiction about those artists, fearing that the author hasn't done his/her homework thoroughly enough. No problem in this case, as Wallace fairly recently completed her Masters Degree in Art History, and includes an afterword cl ...more
This would make a very good book club book, especially if an art history teacher were part of the discussion. As I read it, I kept getting up to look up more of van Gogh's paintings and drawing to better appreciate the wonderful descriptions of his work. I had known that Van Gogh committed suicide but I didn't realize that he died before he achieved any significant recognition as the fabulous artist he was. The narrator of this story is a French doctor who specializes in treating mental illness. ...more
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Carol Wallace, co-author of "To Marry an English Lord," has written 21 books, including most recently her historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." Previous titles have included humor, parenting, and social history. In 2006 Wallace received a M.A. in art history from Columbia University. The research for her M.A. thesis provided the foundation for "Leaving van Gogh." A 1977 graduate of Princeton Univer ...more
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