“Louise and Vincent” by Diane Byington

Louise and Vincent (Red Adept Publishing LLC 2023) by Diane Byington is a moving, well-written novel which should captivate readers, especially those who like history and stories of strong women. The book blends well-researched history with the author’s rich imagination and her talent to create a story about star-crossed lovers, domestic abuse, and the power of art. Set primarily during the latter days of Vincent van Gogh’s life, the novel starts and ends in New Orleans, but most of the story takes place in France.

The very real artist, van Gogh, is fresh out of an asylum when he rents a poor man’s room in an inn in a village near Paris. The inn is run by an unhappy married couple, but the wife—Louise Ravoux—carries the greater weight of the work, plus raising her two daughters. One daughter is a headstrong, rebellious teen whose actions will set in motion a tragic event. Louise has also been the victim of domestic abuse and lives in fear of her husband, though he has promised never to beat her again. Given the punitive divorce laws in France at the time, which would award the children to her husband and give her nothing, combined with Louise’s lack of funds, she is trapped. Or so she fears, though she dreams of escape and of becoming an artist and raising her daughters in a more loving environment.

When Louise sees the vibrant colors van Gogh uses as he paints the flowers, fields and scenes around the Inn, she recognizes his great talent—at a time in which he was most decidedly not famous. With a renewed and earnest desire to paint, she asks him to give her art lessons. She has talent and had once dreamed of being an artist before her unfortunate, arranged marriage. Her art begins to improve rapidly under his tutelage.

Van Gogh and Louise first become friends. Then they become strongly attracted to each other in a romantic way and fantasize about life together as husband and wife. But he is poverty-stricken and supported by his brother, and she is increasingly threatened by her brutal husband who is suspicious and jealous of van Gogh. Yet Louise is determined to escape her husband with her two daughters and to find her way to the life she wants and deserves. She devises a plan of escape—which includes van Gogh, though the plan will begin unraveling almost at once. The rising tensions, dangers, and many conflicts will surely propel readers forward in page-turning fashion in this story, yet the tenderness between Louise and van Gogh is the heart of the tale.

The novel is written with crisp, clear language, filled with lovely descriptive passages that pull the readers into the French countryside, and offers a courageous, determined woman well worth admiration as its central character. A sensitive, fully realized portrayal of van Gogh, complete with many accurate historical details, helps make Louise and Vincent a fine, compelling historical novel. Thought Louise and the relationship are pure fiction, the details about van Gogh are historically accurate.

Diane Byington

The author, Diane Byington, lives part-time in Florida, is the author of prior novels about strong women and has been a tenured college professor, yoga teacher, psychotherapist, and executive coach. She is an admirer of van Gogh and a painter herself. Visit her at https://dianebyington.com/

(Editor’s Note: Reviewer Claire Hamner Matturro and Diane Byington share the same publisher.)



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