Historical Fiction: The Last Van Gogh, by Alyson Richmond

3.0 out of 5 stars Giving and taking

Marguerite is 21 when Vincent Van Gogh arrives at her father’s door for medical/psychological treatment. Dr. Gachet practices from his home, so Marguerite has ample opportunity to interact with the artist. She is drawn to Vincent, who is enormously talented but emotionally fragile, and in a very short time, they fall in love, in spite of the disapproval of her father and brother. Their romance is the pivot around which this novel revolves.

What works best in this story is the depiction of the plight of women around the turn of the twentieth century. Dr. Gachet, as portrayed here, is an incredibly selfish man with questionable personal and professional ethics. The life of Marguerite, as well as those of her father’s mistress and illegitimate daughter, are under his absolute control, which he wields with chilling disregard for their own preferences or ambitions. He cultivates artists as patients because it gives him access to their paintings, which he covets and accepts as payment. He makes liberal use of homemade herbal tinctures with limited understanding their pharmacology.

What does not work particularly well is the author’s characterization of Vincent, who in this book serves as the catalyst for Marguerite’s story and not as a fully developed protagonist. His tragic struggle with depression is described rather than shown, and he comes across as more ghostly than vibrant in the scenes in which he is physically present.

The Last Van Gogh is a bittersweet love story, but those wishing to know more about the artist will find little of value here.


7 thoughts on “Historical Fiction: The Last Van Gogh, by Alyson Richmond

  1. Sounds to me like something made up from someones imagination and only to be read using that pretexts,… all the while with the van Gogh expertise we are faced with today, who knows for sure, maybe this book will be excepted as the gospel.

    • katknit says:

      The Gachet family and their 2 month connection with Van Gogh were real. The author wrote a novel around that phase of his life

      • No, I haven’t read this book yet, only this article. I’m fully aware of this time period from VvG’s life and his association with the Gachet’s. I do know and believe it was said that he did have a supposed romantic relationship going on with Marguerite, and the good Doctor as flighty as he was,… as Vincent himself had said,… would not allow this relationship to broaden or continue, even though at the time it was just in friendship. Vincent left their house for the boarding house on good terms, but at the same time was still was upset with the doctor and his son for their accusations about their friendship.

  2. vanrijngo says:

    I know I’m getting off the subject a little, but you take Vincent’s lasts paintings,… oil on paper, like the one I own and the one very similar to it, of the “Two Women Crossing the Fields” oil on paper while being glued down on canvas,…. and then you begin to understand a little of what Vincent was going through the last month of his life.

    You combine these paintings with his last few letters written to his brother Theo, including the one found in his vest pocket, these stories they tell us is like no other, ones that any artist has ever attempted to tell the art world at large.

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