Lucy has written a letter which tells us, the reader, about the conception of the story:
A snowy, dark weekend in Amsterdam in 2013 – and I found myself standing before a painting from the Van Gogh Museum. It was an olive grove, late in the day. The trees were in full leaf; the grass was scorched to the colour of earth. It was painted, I read, during the artist’s stay at an asylum in rural Provence. I stood by this van Gogh painting, as if warming myself. As I did, a thought came to me: had van Gogh been alone as he painted this? For these olive groves could not have been painted from a distance, as some of his cornfields had been. I felt certain that his easel had been planted amongst these trees, that he’d left the safety of the asylum’s grounds in order to paint them. If so, how had this been allowed? A disturbed and self-harming patient, walking out on his own? As I stood there, I wondered if he’d been accompanied. And with that, I began to imagine it: a warden – modest, quiet, hard-working – by the artist’s side. At home, I began to research. There had, indeed, been a warden at the asylum in Provence – Charles Trabuc. But he’d also had a wife. And intriguingly, van Gogh had painted them both. It was on seeing Jeanne’s portrait – her high-necked dress as if being restrained, and the soft, sad kindness to her face - that I felt my new novel settle around me. I knew, with certainty, whose story I would tell. Whilst I’ve used van Gogh’s letters, art and numerous biographies as a basis for this novel, Jeanne’s tale is all my own. It is her year, as I imagine it – her year of knowing this extraordinary man and how it altered her.
Susan Fletcher, 2016
The publishers, Little Brown, have kindly agreed to let me share with my blog readers, the first chapter of the book, which I hope will encourage you to buy the book and continue this fantastic read. Enjoy ......
ping lanes and a frailer, younger bleating in the moving herd
ier and Les Deux Trous and the five blowing cypress trees
ery. Here she cradled and fed and sang to each boy – and
Mausole. There must be asylums (although Charles is less