Book Review // Lust for Life ⭐⭐⭐

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Book Name: Lust for Life
Author: Irving Stone
Genre: Biographical Novel
Pages: 488

Written as a novel, this book presents Vincent Van Gogh’s life, from the time he was in his twenties to his death. The majority of the book is factual, taken from history and from Van Gogh’s own letters.

Recommended for those who want a fuller picture of who Van Gogh was, and the life he lived, in novel form

Content Warning:
suicide, depression, dissociation, hints at schizophrenia

Review: 3/5 ⭐
This was my first foray into the biographical novel genre. I had no idea this was even a thing. I picked up this book, thinking it was a straightforward biography on Vincent Van Gogh, and instead got this.

After my descent into full-on Vincent Van Gogh obsession via Dear Theo (see my thoughts here and here), I have embarked on a hunt for everything Van Gogh-related. The logical place to begin, of course, was to read the biography written by the same author who compiled and edited Dear Theo, Irving Stone.

My fault for not realising this was not an actual biography.

That said, the book still gave a great deal of context to Dear Theo, by describing the background events Van Gogh refers to in more detail. Therefore, I believe these two books ought to be read together, to gain the most out of them. One can say they’re companion books. As to which one you should read first, I may be biased in saying I would still go with Dear Theo. That book gives the most insight into Van Gogh’s thoughts and the baring of his soul. It is what made me want to learn more about him.

Lust for Life, on the other hand, reads like a dry dramatisation of a biography, and I’m not sure I really enjoy that sort of thing. I noticed that much of the dialogue came from Vincent’s letters anyways, in which case, the author could have just compiled Dear Theo with long footnotes. I would have been happier with that.

If I wanted historical fiction, I would have read something else. A biographical novel land somewhere between historical fiction and biography. It reads like an identity crisis. If I hadn’t already been so invested in Van Gogh’s story, I likely would have found this book boring. It gave me neither enough details of Vincent’s life, nor the intimate glimpse into Vincent’s soul.

It’s just kind of, meh.

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I’ll be awfully lonely without you … but I know that you have to go. Somewhere in this world there must be a spot that you can make all your own. I don’t know where it is; it’s up to you to find it.

No artist is normal; if he were, he wouldn’t be an artist. Normal men don’t create works of art. They eat, sleep, hold down routine jobs, and die. You are hypersensitive to life and nature; that’s why you are able to interpret for the rest of us.


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