This is the gut-wrenching, heart-stopping tale of Vincent Van Gogh’s life as narrated by Irving Stone. It is a book that grew on me slowly, as I took my time familiarising myself with his family, his milieu, his thoughts. Stone succeeds in making this journey through a long-dead celebrity’s life – a very intimate one. His recounting & reconstruction of the artist’s life events seems flawless and faultless, until I was prepared to believe that the characters must truly have spoken in these words and no other! Stone mentions at the end of the book that he has taken some creative license as far as conversations are concerned (expectedly), but the essence is true and it shows.I also liked the linearity of the book which I felt made the story easy to follow. Stone follows Van Gogh’s journey from London where he has his heart broken by Ursula, in a sequential manner, tracing his thoughts and steps as they led him to his final resting place in Auvers. At every stop in between, we learn how Van Gogh is affected by the people of the region and Nature. These are the two driving forces that teach him about himself and life and in doing so reveal the genius within. I LOVE the title. I didn’t start out loving it – wondered why a book on a painter would be titled so. But as I read how he lived and how he painted – so wholly, so completely, so utterly giving of himself to the task at hand – whether it be serving fellow humans or painting – I realised there could have been no other title for a book on Van Gogh’s life! He lived lustily indeed, squeezing life out of every moment – tragic and joyful – and knowing that puts a whole new depth of perspective on his work.
I’ve visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and stood in front of those Yellow Sunflowers in awe – not knowing what exactly it was that moved me but sensing that I felt happiness in their presence, sensing the magic that lingered after a century had passed. My favourite Van Gogh is The Almond Blossoms that he painted when his nephew little Vincent was born! I bought a tile that sits in my bedroom and that never fails to cheer me up just by existing! Oh that blue! And yet somewhere I wish it didn’t have to take so much tragedy to create a genius. I cried when he died – that’s the writing that is. Powerful, simple and eloquent. Much like Van Gogh himself.
And I didn’t know that Theo passed on within 6 months of Vincent! That bond they shared was something else! I was really glad that throughout his hard life, Vincent could always count on his brother’s love and support. I like to think it made up in some part at least for the lack of love he experienced in most of his other relationships. I also enjoyed the interactions he had with his contemporaries Gaguin, Cezzane, Lautrec, Rousseau…very interesting menage they made! This is a a wonderful and surprisingly uplifting read despite the tragedy that marked the life of this genius.
A MUST read!