About the Book
Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace
1. Gachet assures himself throughout the novel that he was the best doctor for Vincent. Do you agree? Do you think he really believes it?
2. Despite Vincent’s sullenness, quick temper, and irritability, Gachet, Paul, and Marguerite are all drawn to him. Why do you think that is? What are their different reasons for being drawn to him?
3. Discuss the ways in which Vincent’s madness and his genius appear to be interconnected. How do they clash, and to what extent does one influence the other?
4. Vincent writes to his brother Theo that he doesn’t think he can “rely on Dr. Gachet in any way
…it appears to me he is more ill than I” (144). What do you make of Vincent’s assessment? Do you think there is any truth to it?
5. How do you think Van Gogh’s mental illness would have been treated if he lived today?
6. Why do you think Vincent stops being able to paint? Have you ever experienced a similar loss of creativity?
7. Gachet is consumed by remorse for his actions at the time of Blanche’s death. Why does he feel so guilty? Do you think he did the right thing?
8. Toward the end of the novel, Gachet wonders if he can trust his son Paul. What is he worried about? Do you trust Paul?
9. Carol Wallace leaves the relationship between Vincent and Marguerite ambiguous. What do you think might have happened between the two of them?
10. After Vincent van Gogh’s death, Theo gave away many of the canvases that Vincent had painted in Auvers. Based on what you’ve read about Theo in Leaving Van Gogh
, what do you think his motivations were for giving away the paintings? What kind of toll do you think his relationship Vincent took on him? Do you think Theo ever had any doubts about his brother’s talents?
11. Many of the paintings described in the novel are quite famous. Did you recognize any of them as you were reading? Do you think of them differently now?
12. Vincent van Gogh lived a tormented, relatively short life, but today his works are considered to be among the greatest paintings of all time. How would you measure the success of his life? Do you think the quality of one’s life is more important than one’s legacy, or the other way around?