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Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  423 ratings  ·  93 reviews
No one knows the name of 'the painter' who comes to the asylum in St Remy in the south of France, but they see his wild, red hair and news of his savaged ear soon circulates in the village and comes to the notice of the wife of the asylum's doctor. She feels herself drawn to him and learns that his presence is disturbing - and not just to her either. But back she goes - ag ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 31st 2016 by Virago Press (first published 2016)
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Bill Higgins My daughter just received this book from Heywood Hill, in London as part of a gift subscription. You can check out their website if you're interested.…moreMy daughter just received this book from Heywood Hill, in London as part of a gift subscription. You can check out their website if you're interested. (less)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
I think one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that Susan Fletcher manages to write a story about Vincent van Gogh's stay at the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole and his meetings with Jeanne Trabuc, and yet Fletcher doesn't let Vincent take over the story. That could easily have happened, he is a charismatic man, but the book is pretty much Jeanne's story, her recollections about her childhood, her marriage life as she steals away moments to talk to the mad painter. Meetings she ...more
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
This weekend I sat in the garden, the sun shining, and read the most beautiful, lyrical and vividly written book – Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew. This isn’t the first book I have read by this author (more on that later) so I knew that I was in for a treat and I wasn’t let down in the slightest.

This book is a feast for the senses. From the very first sentence, I was whisked immediately away to the Provencial countryside as a new spring is dawning and I was immersed in colours and fragrances
Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

As I write this commentary, only fourteen readers have rated Susan Fletcher’s Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew on Goodreads. Seven have issued the book a flawless five stars, while another six have issued appreciative fours. Only one reader has gone lower and in all honesty, I’m quite comfortable being a lone dissenter. What works for one reader doesn’t always work for another and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as
This historical novel about the year Vincent Van Gogh spent at the mental hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole (1889–90) is from the perspective of the warden’s wife, Jeanne Trabuc. Now 55 and with three grown sons, Jeanne fears life’s adventures and sensual pleasures are over for her. Yet a friendship with this volatile new Dutchman makes her think that maybe she can reclaim an attitude of excited anticipation.

If what you actually want is a book about van Gogh, you’d be better off reading Barbara
Mairead Hearne (
A very gentle story of a marriage that struggled and how a change in the wind can bring about something rather special.
Reminiscent of Joanne Harris or Kate Mosse
Read in two sittings ~ I was temporarily transported to Provence 1889......colours, descriptions!!
My kind of book......

Full Review as published on Tripfiction..

‘Provence ~ May 1889

He’s foreign. Dutch I think. A strange man. Wild. And self-wounded, I hear – violently so’

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew is a beautiful novel written
Deborah Pickstone
Another historical hero of mine. Van Gogh is possibly the most original painter in history (my opinion) and certainly one of the most influential. How surprised he would have been to know that! The novel is a fairly quiet story in which he features almost as an aside - it tells the story of the resolution of the marriage of Jeanne and Charles Trebuc, whose portraits Vincent painted during his stay at the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This is of course purely a fictional account though the de ...more
Lynn Williams
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
My primary reading these days falls into the SFF bracket without doubt, however, there are certain authors that I really enjoy that step outside that field that I always want to read and Susan Fletcher is one of those authors. I first fell in love with her writing after reading Witch Light (which I think is also known as Corrag). Fletcher has a way of writing things that simply make them stand out from the page. Her writing is beautiful and evocative and t
Christabel Vassallo
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This has been one surprising discovery! A captivating tale of a common woman, Jeanne Trabuc, whose character gains narrative focus and succeeds in establishing her as the dominant protagonist of her story, with the lurking and seemingly ubiquitous shadow of the intriguing and impressive Dutchman, Vincent Van Gogh, transferred to Saint Paul-de-Mausole under the care and surveillance of the asylum warden, Charles Trabuc (the husband).

The forceful search for identity and meaning is the pivotal the
Elite Group
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Emotionally touching and beautifully crafted.

Set in the town of St Remy in the south of France, 'Let Me Tell You About a Man I Know' tells the story of Jeanne Trabuc, wife of the warden of the mental asylum Saint Paul de Mausole. With her 3 sons having grown up and left home and her husband Charles absorbed in his work at the hospital, Jeanne is lonely. However, when a new patient arrives at the asylum - a Dutch painter who was sent over from the nearby town of Arles after viciously cutting off
Renita D'Silva
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and haunting. A brilliantly imagined window into the little known history of Van Gogh when he was hospitalised in France.
Rating: 2 Stars

To tell the truth, towards the end, I was tempted to abandon this. The first few chapters are undoubtedly well written and alluring, sadly, the story never really progresses from that. I think that the main issue I had with Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew is that it was trying to be two different novels: one of which concerns Vincent van Gogh's stay at the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole while the other is of a woman in the late 19th century and her uncertainty over her relat
Camille de Fleurville
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
More detailed review to come. Meanwhile...
I had doubts about this fictionalised life of Van Gogh during the year he spent at the asylum of Saint-Rémy-de Provence after the crisis during which he cut his ear in Arles. The press advert claimed it to be family with "Girl with pearl earring " and the last Donna Tartt's because they both dealt with other Dutch painters -Vermeer and Fabritius.
No need to be cautious and no real family links with the other books. Most of all, no need to claim for some.
Daphne Sharpe
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The story of Vincent Van Gogh who was confined to the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole in Provence as seen through the eyes of Jeanne Trabuc who was the wife of the warden. Jeanne and her husband Charles are as much prisoners of the asylum as the inmates as they struggle to find staff and money to maintain this dilapidated building, along with the ageing nuns who help treat and nurse the patients.
Jeanne found her hopes and dreams crushed on the outside of the asylum as much as those on the insid
Gem BookEater
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is 1889 and the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole, home to the mentally ill, has a new patient. A passionate artist with copper-red hair but only half an ear.

The warden of the hospital has rules for his wife to keep her safe from the patients. She must never stray from their little white cottage next door into the grounds without him by her side. But tales of this man’s odd mixture of insanity and self-awareness are too intriguing for Jeanne Trabuc to resist. Especially when she has nothing e
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The story is imaginary but the characters are all real. Jeanne the wife of Charles Trabuc the warden of the 'asylum' at the foot of the Les Apilles where a new patient has arrived, the first new one in 4 years. A Dutchman, his copper coloured hair and beard, tales of his savagery and passion spread quickly and his painting, his ceaseless need to express his visions onto canvass in colours only he can see.. Layer on layer of thick paint, almost daubed on so that it could take weeks to dry, his ca ...more
Ana Ovejero
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nobody knows the name of the painter that has arrived to the Monastery in Saint-Rémy, which has become an assylum for the troubled mind.

However, soon gossip about the painter savage red hair and the story of his severed ear fills the talking of the women in the market of the village. As you soon see, the painter is not other than Vincent Van Gogh.

After the turbulent life with Gaughin, who is accused of sending Vincent to madness, he looks for refuge in the French countryside.

Jeanne Trabuc is the
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Set in Provence at the end of the nineteenth century, this is the story of the arrival of at the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole of an unusual patient, a painter who has caused outrage in the nearby town of Arles by fraternizing with prostitutes, by wandering into the town completely naked, and by cutting off half his ear. He is, of course, Vincent Van Gogh.

But this is not Vincent's story, it is the story of Jeanne Trabuc, wife of the hospital's chief warden, a woman whose world has been stea
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was so looking forward to Susan Fletcher's Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, particularly after so enjoying Eve Green and The Silver Dark Sea. Set in Provence in 1889, Let Me Tell You... is immediately different in its feel to the aforementioned. It focuses upon a secluded hospital, Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, which is home to the mentally ill. Jeanne Trabue, the wife of the warden, becomes entranced by a new resident, a painter, named Vincent van Gogh.

The sense of place and the characters who li
Rebecca Griffiths
A truly beautiful book about loss and love and the grief that is the human condition. Reading it saved me during a truly dark few weeks in my own life, and for this, I shall forever be grateful to this wonderful author.

Reading about Jeanne, and being able to live alongside her in that sun-filled part of France all those lifetimes ago, gave me somewhere to go in my head ... her world and her life, was, for a little while, a better place than mine to dwell. I felt so deeply for this ageing woman,
Kelly Knights
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it
I grabbed this book at a used bookstore on a whim and it definitely was a... different read! Not my cup of tea, but I’m also not mad that I read it. Very poetic, detailed imagery and I did enjoy the very detailed backstory and personality of the main character. Did I expect to kick of my reading challenge with a period piece about Van Gogh? Nooooo. But did I finish it stubbornly and end up enjoying it a little more than I thought I would? Yes. Would I recommend it? I don’t think so... maybe if y ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gentle book that says a lot in a very understated way. Lovely writing.

The Vincent Van Gogh character was almost irrelevant for me - it could have been any painter (although I did look up the paintings referred to, which was very interesting). What I loved about this book was its quietly beautiful portrayal of the way a couple can drift apart without realising it after years of marriage. The misunderstanding of each other through poor communication was poignantly written. The two main characte
Lisa Farrell
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love Susan Fletcher's writing. This is an atmospheric tale of love, loss and longing, beautifully told from the point of view of Mme Trabuc, who meets Van Gogh while he is a patient at her husband's asylum. Van Gogh seems to release something long-hidden in Jeanne and forces her to reassess her life and marriage. I was a little emotional at the end of this. ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really like Susan, as a person. But I guess my fellow imported-Tilburger Van Gogh is just not really all that interesting to me. It may also be because I was trying to read this book while very busy with other stuff, so I could not focus on it. I will give it another go if I can find a copy in my local library. :)
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book. We went to Saint Rémy a few weeks ago and I felt I was back there again. We saw the Van Gogh Show Carrières de Lumières at Les Baux with Vincent’s paintings projected on the walls of the quarries. This book brought it all to life with the wonderful poetic style.
This is one book I’m keeping to read again !
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
A really beautiful book. My review (plus a Q&A with the author) is here: ...more
Cait Lennox
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Susan Fletcher has the ability to transport the reader to landscapes, with such an illustrative means of scene setting. This book has the added interest of tying in with a real historical figure. A great read
Lucy Mac
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Exquisitely paced. Susan Fletcher's prose is a joy, almost hypnotic. She has breathed life into a legend. This book stayed with me long after I put it down. ...more
Melissa Riley
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I loved this way more than I thought I would. Just realised I never came back and reviewed. I might need to re-read!
Linda Kelly
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Just beautiful.
Lisa Walker
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, the detail was lovely.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Susan Fletcher is the author of Eve Green, which won the Whitbread Award for First Novel, Oystercatchers, and Corrag. She lives in the United Kingdom.

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