Book Review: Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to the library. But when your kid wants a book, you go. And when you go, you get some books for yourself. And when you don’t know exactly what you’re in the mood for, you just grab something off the new release shelf and go with it.

And then you are so thrilled you did.

I happened to grab Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman. I didn’t even read what it was about. I just like Van Gogh’s artwork and thought it might be good.

It’s interesting to go into a book with hardly any expectations and find that it’s still not quite what you expected. It’s somber and blunt, and it doesn’t read like a novel or even quite like an autobiography. The chapters are “galleries,” and there are even a few photos of his works included here and there throughout the book. It’s not a light read, but it moves very quickly due to the short chapters. There’s a lot of people who are depressed and disappointed, and yet I couldn’t put it down.

Vincent and Theo tells a story unlike what we usually get in a typical art appreciation class, of a painter who was a little nutty, cut his ear off, and didn’t get famous until after he died. In fact, I’m a little miffed at all the textbooks that skimmed over him like that. I don’t want to go into any details that would spoil it for you, though. I want you to pick up this book, and then when you’re finished reading it and you put it down again, I want you to have the same reaction I did. Whoa.

What makes this all the more fascinating is that Heiligman’s research came from letters exchanged between Vincent and his other friends and family members. It provides an in-depth, insightful, and amazing journey that I had no idea existed.

Vincent and Theo is not a simple biography of an artist. It’s an explanation of why and how the artist became who he was. Tragic, yes, but also transporting and absolutely amazing. I highly recommend it.

Interestingly enough, just a couple of weeks after I finished reading this book (and was still swooning over it), I came across a framed print of Van Gogh’s “Irises” at Goodwill for just $2. I happen to be decorating my office in flowers, and I snapped it right up!


Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

One response to “Book Review: Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

  1. Hi Ashley
    thanks for reviewing this van Gogh book. We loved this book very much as well. It’s a must for everybody who is interested in this Dutch painter.
    Wishing you a relaxed weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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