Wells

ALReview-0053

Return to Appreciating Literature

'Let me tell you about a man I knew' by Susan Fletcher.

This is a novel set in Provence during 1889 when Vincent van Gogh took refuge at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, after his breakdown in Arles. However, the main character of the story is not van Gogh but Jeanne Trabuc, the warden's wife and the subject of a painting by the artist. This introspective story is about loneliness, growing older and the difficulties people can have communicating with those they know best. Like van Gogh, who paints in layers, the author peels away layers of Jeanne's life until she emerges from being unseen to seen.

Most of us felt this was a well-written book with clearly defined characters. Provence is a beautiful area and the landscape that so inspired van Gogh is vividly and evocatively described. However, we were not all in agreement and one member did not like the book at all. She found the writing jerky and the story boring. An alternative ending was suggested which ended the book in 'sunshine' rather than with the lurid details of van Gogh's death which we all know anyway. Throughout the book some of us struggled to accept what is after all the author's subjective view of a real person but we felt she probably succeeded here because van Gogh and his art were not the focus of the story.