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Leaving Van Gogh

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,446 ratings  ·  244 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 b
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2011)
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Emma Caylor In my opinion, historical fiction allows for an expansion on the lives of people who may have some mystery to them. It also adds flavor and feeling to…moreIn my opinion, historical fiction allows for an expansion on the lives of people who may have some mystery to them. It also adds flavor and feeling to what can be rather dry accounts told in biographies. I grew up reading historical fiction, particularly the Dragon Wings series by Laurence Yep. His work brought to light a history of Chinese immigration to the United States and the lives of Chinese Americans throughout the history of the US. This topic was something that would be hard for a young child to access, but definitely something that helped formed my views on how to treat all people.
I suppose, in conclusion, historical fiction is a more accessible way for people to approach historical figures and time periods.(less)

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Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Dionisia by: Goodreads Giveaway
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.
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western Art. At the age of 37, when he committed suicide, he was largely unknown despite having completed over 2,000 works of art that would later go on to become some of the most important and valued in the world.

This story is told from the point of view of Vincent’s personal physician, Dr. Gachet, who was a pioneer in the humane treatment of the mentally il
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
In this fictionalized biography, the last months of Vincent Van Gogh's life are told from the first person perspective of Paul Gachet, a medical doctor. Dr. Gachet lived part time in Paris and part time in Auvers, which is a short distance from Paris, and had an interest in mental illness. He also did a little painting and was a collector. This is in the very, very early stages of understanding mental problems. Theo Van Gogh, Vincent's brother, asked Dr Gachet if he would observe his brother's b ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  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
May 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
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,
Deborah Pickstone
Best book of 2017 so far. Spellbinding. Beautiful. Very sad - I cried. Author was scrupulous in telling what was true and what made up; I would like to think it was all true. That poor man - and those exquisite paintings! I've seen some in various galleries; there is nothing like his painting.

It is true that many artist's do suffer forms of mental illness - more than the rest of the population. And poor Theo also. It is amazing really that his widow went on to assiduously promote van Gogh's work
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
J.M. Cornwell
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 chosen
Carina Pereira
One of the wonders of historical romances is the made up answer to "what could have happened then." The real story is intertwined brilliantly with the actual facts, and gives us a possible solution to the question still made nowadays, and that surrounds van Gogh's death: where did the gun go?

It is not my favourite assumption of van Gogh's death, the one provided by the author, but the narrative - from the point of view of an imagined Dr. Gachet - does give us a beautiful insight into Vincent's
Sally Ann Sims
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Having been a Van Gogh fan for many years, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel. I also write novels myself and am an oil painter, so there were many points of intersection for me with this story. Overall, I found the writing to be very perceptive and, in places, lyrical. I had issues with the pacing in some spots--too much time on Dr. Gachet's past as an intern without a strong connection to the primary narrative line. Overall though, an interesting and compelling read. -Sally Ann Sims, ...more
The Lit Bitch
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
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
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the third book that I have read about Van Gogh. The first was from the his brother's point of view ( Theo). The second was about his sister-in-law and her perseverance in having Vincent's painting show in galleries. The shipping of the paintings and the efforts that it took. This book is from the doctor's point of view. Van Gogh was highly disturbed and Theo asked this doctor to keep an eye on his brother. This added to the background of the artist. ...more
Kari Shepherd
Feb 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Lorri Steinbacher
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Always makes me sad that he had no idea what would become of his art. Or did he? Enjoyed the book very much.
Debbie Gulley
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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.
Denise Horbaly
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the historical aspects and the (created) friendship between patient and doctor. Now to research about the true relationship between Van Gogh and Gachet...
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Leaving Van Gogh” was tragic to read from the first words. Knowing the artist’s fate made every word, every description of a painting seems colored with grief. From the perspective of a doctor that knows him briefly and is unable to alter the path of Vincent’s life, this story is beautifully heartbreaking.

“Vincent turned his head to smile at Theo. I never saw that expression again on his face. It was pure happiness and affection. I wish that some of the many, many portraits Vincent had made of
Claire Gem
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This fictionalized story of artist Vincent Van Gogh is told by the physician who treated him in the final months of his life. Dr. Gachet was approached by Vincent's brother, Theo, explaining that Vincent had a history of mental illness, and had spent time in an asylum. Gachet is taken with Vincent, inviting him into his home for a time. His children, Paul and Marguerite, become infatuated with the artist. In this telling, the gun with which Vincent purportedly shot himself belonged to Dr. Gachet ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I studied art history quite some time ago, but my focus was on French painters. This book combined my love of historical fiction with the story of Van Gogh, who, though he was not French himself, painted alongside some of my favorites! It was told from his doctor's perspective which was interesting but I did find some parts dragged a bit with unnecessary details to the story. Plus, I used the book to look up paintings and etchings that were discussed in the book simultaneously, a recommended way ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thoughtfully written book about the torment and brilliance of Vincent Van Gogh told through the eyes of his doctor, Paul Gachet (who was the subject of one of his most famous portraits). I enjoy reading historic fiction since it makes the past come alive and I learn so much from this type of writing, not just of the subject itself but of the time. This book is no different and I truly enjoyed seeing Vincent and his brother Theo, come to life as well as Dr. Gachet and his family. 3 1/2 stars ou ...more
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Carol Wallace, the great-great-granddaughter of Lew Wallace, is the author most recently of a new version of "Ben-Hur." It is the official tie-in of the new major film, releasing in August of 2016.

Carol is also the co-author of "To Marry an English Lord," which was one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and author of the historical novel
"Leaving Van Gogh." Previous titles have included hu

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