Summary and book reviews of Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo

The Van Gogh Brothers

by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman X
Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2019, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of National Book Award finalist Charles and Emma comes an incredible story of brotherly love.

The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend - Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the extraordinary love of the Van Gogh brothers.

1.

TWO BROTHERS, ONE APARTMENT, PARIS, 1887

There was a time when I loved Vincent very much, and he was my best friend, but that's over now.

—Theo van Gogh to his sister Willemien, March 14, 1887

THEO'S BROTHER VINCENT has been living with him for just over a year, and Theo cannot take it anymore.

It is "almost intolerable for me at home," he writes to their sister Wil in March 1887. Even though Theo has moved them to a larger apartment, this one still feels too small to hold Vincent's outsized personality and Theo's desperate need for quiet. He's dying to tell Vincent to move out, but he knows if he does, Vincent will just be more determined to stay.

Dogged. Contrary. Stubborn. Vincent.

Theo van Gogh is the manager of Goupil & Cie, a successful art gallery on the fashionable Boulevard Montmartre in Paris. Theo is good at his job, but it's terrifically frustrating for him right now. The owners of the gallery want him to sell paintings in the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The book is marketed to 14- to 18-year-olds, but I noticed no simplification or deliberate toning down of the content; for instance, it's mentioned that at different points both brothers disgraced themselves by being found with prostitutes. In both style and structure, this is a highly original biography. There is a fair bit here that will feel familiar to those who have read about Vincent before. A significant swath in the middle gets bogged down in his unrequited love affairs and failed ventures. That said, Vincent and Theo is beautifully written and succeeds in being much more creative than your average biography. It is likely to foster a deep and abiding appreciation for art, especially in teens...continued

Full Review (741 words).

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(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

Toronto Star
Passion, intimacy and family love propel this masterful, suitably impressionistic portrait of the relationship of artist Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo...thorough familiarity with the brothers’ copious correspondence; sensitivity and originality in reading it, and alertness to the imaginative afterlife of seemingly simple exchanges make this revelatory, compulsive reading. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Heiligman tells the brothers' story in short chapters, sometimes just scenes, and occasionally offers what she calls "croquis" (sketches) to give a better sense of 'someone whose whole being cannot be captured on paper in one steady view. Like Theo'.

Booklist
Starred Review. This illuminating glimpse into the van Goghs' turbulent life and historical period will add compelling depth to readers' understanding of the iconic painter.

School Library Journal
Starred Review. A breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more. Libraries would be wise to purchase a volume of the brothers' letters along with this book.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love.

Reader Reviews

Pineapple

Great!!!
This book is very interesting. I have learned so much about Vincent Van Gogh. I picked it up because I needed to do a book report but, I couldn't put it down.

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Beyond the Book

A Van Gogh Reading List

Deborah Heiligman's Vincent and Theo draws on the hundreds of letters that passed between the Van Gogh brothers. There are various editions of Vincent's letters, including a 2009 version endorsed by the Van Gogh Museum that contains all Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. The letters between Theo and his wife, Johanna, are also available in translation as Brief Happiness (1999), and Jo left a short memoir of Vincent.

Here are four more books, not limited to the young adult genre, that allow for further reflection and/or speculation about Vincent van Gogh's career and character.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick

Sunflowers A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles, France, to ...

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