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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Josephine Smith's historical fiction novel Between the Cypress and the Stars: Van Gogh's life through Perspectives is a re-imagining of the life of the artistic genius Vincent Van Gogh. The novel focuses on the last years of Van Gogh's life from 1888 -1890 when he lived in the south of France. In the novel, Van Gogh's art and life emerge through the perspectives of different characters. The narrators were all real-life people. Each chapter begins with a painting inspired by the people he met. The tension-filled narratives of artist Paul Gaugin's stormy visit to Arles mark a very significant turning point in Van Gogh's life. Mentally exhausted, he is admitted to the St. Remy asylum in 1889. The novel's title is based on Van Gogh's masterpiece Road with Cypress and Star, created in 1890 in St. Remy.
I greatly enjoyed reading Josephine Smith's Between the Cypress and the Stars. I loved the interweaving of paintings and narrative because that turned the novel into a compelling and thought-provoking story of Van Gogh's artistic genius. The different narrators' impressions, observations, and reactions tell of a complex character and reveal Van Gogh's incredible gift of portraying emotions, personality, and scenes through bold and vibrant colors. I liked Josephine Smith's inclusion of narratives about the strong bond of love and friendship between Van Gogh and his brother Theo. Another very important turning point is in the poignant story of Marguerite Gachet, revealing Van Gogh's kind, caring, and sensitive nature. Josephine Smith's novel was a fascinating and rewarding read for me!