Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Deborah Heiligman. Holt, $19.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9339-1
As teenagers, the Van Gogh brothers, Vincent and Theo, pledged to “be companions in the search for meaning in life and meaning in art.” In this intensive exploration of their turbulent lives, Heiligman (Charles and Emma) focuses on their complex relationship and anchoring mutual bond. Writing in present tense, she follows them from their childhood closeness as two of six children of a Protestant pastor in the heavily Catholic Dutch village of Zundert into their contrasting adulthoods in France: painter Vincent’s life was precarious and erratic, while art dealer Theo’s was more stable and decorous, if often lonely. 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.” She also recounts, in exhaustive detail, Vincent’s frequent cycles of descent into mental illness and subsequent rebounds, as well as the way the brothers alternately clashed with and clung to each other. Extensive back matter includes a character list, timeline, bibliography, endnotes, and author’s note. Ages 14–up. Agent: Susan Ginsberg, Writers House. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/2017
Release date: 04/18/2017
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