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  • Leaving Van Gogh
  • Written by Carol Wallace
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  • Leaving Van Gogh
  • Written by Carol Wallace
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9781588369437
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Leaving Van Gogh

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A Novel

Written by Carol WallaceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Carol Wallace


List Price: $12.99


On Sale: April 19, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-58836-943-7
Published by : Spiegel & Grau Random House Group
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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 brilliantly navigates the mysteries surrounding the master artist’s death, relying on meticulous research to paint an indelible portrait of Van Gogh’s final days—and the friendship that may or may not have destroyed him. Telling Van Gogh’s story from an utterly new perspective—that of his personal physician, Dr. Gachet, specialist in mental illness and great lover of the arts—Wallace allows us to view the legendary painter as we’ve never seen him before.  In our narrator’s eyes, Van Gogh is an irresistible puzzle, a man whose mind, plagued by demons, poses the most potentially rewarding challenge of Gachet’s career. 

Wallace’s narrative brims with suspense and rich psychological insight as it tackles haunting questions about Van Gogh’s fate. A masterly, gripping novel that explores the price of creativity, Leaving Van Gogh is a luminous story about what it means to live authentically, and the power and limits of friendship.
Carol Wallace

About Carol Wallace

Carol Wallace - Leaving Van Gogh
Carol McD. Wallace is the author of several bestselling baby name books, as well as other books, including a guide to manners for children. She is a graduate of Princeton where she majored in comparative literature.


“Riveting…Vincent’s vitality and unique intelligence wash over the reader—much as they do when looking at his paintings. Wallace deepens our thinking about the painter by imagining the conversations he had with Gachet and his family and in the gentle way that she imagines his demeanor between manic episodes...The book is truly delightful.”—Los Angeles Times

“This in-depth look at the final few months of van Gogh’s life offers insight into that damning, draining combination of genius and madness.”—Library Journal
“Van Gogh’s mix of genius and madness continues to fascinate.”—Kirkus Reviews

"A haunting novel of bold strokes and fine-grained gestures, one that resonates long after its last, luminous page.  In Carol Wallace’s masterful hands Van Gogh’s pictures spring to life every bit as brilliantly as does the painter himself."—Stacy Schiffauthor of Cleopatra: A Life

"How did Carol Wallace do this?  Her novel so thrillingly and compassionately illuminates the tragic life of Vincent van Gogh that he is now lodged in my heart like a beloved lost relative.  I am awed and enthralled, and so grateful for this perfect blend of artistic authority and suberb storytelling."—Elinor Lipman, author of The Family Man

"Carol Wallace’s new novel is a wonderfully rich exploration of the deep interconnectedness of art and madness, friendship and therapy, hope and despair.  And through Wallace’s estimable talent, Vincent van Gogh, one of the most fascinating figures in the history of any art form, acts and speaks and passionately lives with absolute authenticity.  Leaving Van Gogh is a remarkable imaginative achievement and an utterly compelling read."—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

"Carol Wallace’s Leaving Van Gogh is an act of wondrous ventriloquism not to be missed: the last months of Vincent van Gogh’s life, narrated by the mysterious and marvelous Dr. Gachet, Van Gogh’s physician, and a tale of love, of madness, of art—and of genius and grief—told with the tender courage of a good friend."—Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

"This sensitively written novel, with its many passages of deep beauty and insight, reveals the tragic Van Gogh as clearly as if he sat across your room. Told by the aging doctor who wants to rectify the one great failure of his own life by saving the distraught artist who perhaps does not wish to be saved, Leaving Van Gogh is a moving and profound book about the preciousness of the gifts of art and love and what we can mean to each other."—Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

"Beautifully textured, painterly, and insightful—reading this book is like stepping into one of Van Gogh’s paintings."—Rebecca Stott , author of Ghostwalk

"A rich, meticulously researched novel that probes the passion of genius, and the demands of love and friendship. With a painterly eye, Wallace translates Van Gogh’s dazzling canvases into luminous prose and lets the reader see the universe as the great Impressionist did."—Ellen Feldman, author of Lucy and Scottsboro
Reader's Guide

About the Book

Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace

Reader’s Guide


   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? 


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