Lust for Life | Irving Stone | Vincent Van Gogh’s Bio: Book Review

Book reviews can be really complicated or the simplest of all. They are simple because you just have to say how it felt. Complicated because a person can only give their opinion or how they felt about a book, generalizations generally don’t serve the purpose. Also most classic books have plenty of book reviews already so why one more? Umm, because everyone feels differently and pens differently.

Lust for Life by Irving Stone (Vincent Van Gogh’s biography) came in my life early this year, somewhere mid January 2016, recommended by a dear friend. I finished it just in the beginning of March, which is really a long period of time for me. I don’t believe in ‘Book Fidelity’ (read one book at a time, and finish from start to end), I read multiple books in the same period of time, and very much naturally. That’s perhaps how I read books a little quicker than most people do. But Lust for Life was different.

Image Courtesy:

For starters, this book is by Irving Stone who wrote extremely well-researched biographies, all his life. Lust for Life shall always remain as the most detailed and closer to reality, historical novel of Van Gogh’s life. Before this book, you’d know that Vincent Van Gogh was an amazing painter. After reading this book you’d know what it takes to achieve excellence to achieve one’s passion. And how in spite of trying your best and sometimes even more, you’d go unnoticed or even criticized. Hard work doesn’t guarantee appreciation. Van Gogh was criticized all his life, for ‘ugly, imperfect, unusual’ paintings, all through the 850 paintings, until he committed suicide in 1853, at the age of 37. It is said that he had gone crazy towards the end, was even admitted to a mental asylum. But his quest for painting got him out.


If you saw someone, even a stranger, take a blade and cut themselves slowly right in front of you, how would it feel? Some junctures of his life (as mentioned in the book) are too intense to handle. I kept taking breaks in the middle of the reading. I read some light hearted humor or didn’t read anything else at all. This book has the power to emotionally break you and then transform you to a different (better) person.

Peasant Woman by Van Gogh

Five Reasons why you should read Lust for Life (not an exhaustive list of reasons):

  1. It is about the life story of Sir. Vincent Van Gogh, common! That sheer fact, and the excellence and innovativeness of his paintings should make you want to read it, and know how did this person come to be such a big artist. Every artist must read it, even if they are not painters. Writers, designers, dancers, film makers will relate a lot. Activists may also relate a lot.
  2. If you are going through a bad phase or you are consumed by a feeling that people are unfair, that life is unfair and that you are under-appreciated. If you feel under-loved. Van Gogh went through this pretty much all his life but his sheer love to paint rescued him till the end. Van Gogh’s spirit my help, rekindle your spirit.
  3. If you have had someone in your life who has stayed in your think and thin. For Vincent, it was his elder brother Theo. Theo and Vincent relationship through letters, all over the years when they lived separately, is nothing but heartwarming. How can a brother love so much! You keep wondering.
  4. If you are sociall and political events make you curious, you’ll be able to draw parallels from the ‘Miners’ section in his story with the caste based capitalist society that we are moving towards (here in India).
  5. If you need a mind detox from the meaningless mainstream. The circle of earning money, then buying stuff, then buying space to store stuff, then using stuff, then earning money to buy more stuff. Van Gogh’s life pushes us towards simplicity, whether or not we want it. 


Quotes and Fond Memories:


“When he got within a block of her house he felt himself enter her aura. It was a torture to have the feel of her and yet have her so inaccessible. Pain did curious things to him. It made him sensitive to the pain of others. It made him intolerant of everything that was cheap and blatantly successful in the world.”


“At last he realized that he was a liar and a coward. He preached the virtues of poverty to the miners but he himself lived in comfort and plenty. He was nothing more than a hypocritical slinger of words. His religion was an idle, useless thing.”


“I cannot understand how a God in Heaven would purposely create such a condition and enslave a whole race of people in abject misery for century after century without one hour of providential mercy.”


Vincent’s father: You’re wrong, my boy. An artist’s work is either good or bad. And if it is bad, he is no artist. He ought to have found that out himself at the beginning and not have wasted all his time and effort.” Vincent: “But what if he has a happy life turning out bad art? What then?”

“It is money that makes men animals, is it not?” “Yes that, and lack of money.”


“There is pleasure, sure, in being mad, which none but madmen know.”


“One cannot paint good-bye.”



An animated documentary trailer, ‘Loving Vincent‘ by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman:


(Liked this? Hated it? Let me know in the comments below or mail it to be at If you happen to read the book, would like to share your thoughts with me, it would be my please. Book conversations are best conversations. Cheers.)







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