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Star Book Review

November 3, 2023 November 2023, Regular Features No Comments

‘Vincent and Sien’ by Silvia Kwon  

Reviewer: Brenda Gale

Silvia Kwon is a Korean born Australian writer with a background in art history and publishing which makes her rather uniquely suited to the subject matter she has chosen in her new book.

1882 in The Hague, and Vincent van Gogh had committed himself to becoming an artist, spending years drawing in charcoal and pencil to ‘perfect the line’ before even picking up a paintbrush. 

He subsisted on an allowance from his younger brother and in today’s parlance would probably be described as neurodivergent. 

It was during these years that he met Sien, a pregnant, illiterate working girl. Their relationship lasted approximately 18 months and was largely based on each fulfilling the base needs of the other. Vincent’s for a model, sex and the fantasy of the perfect family and Sien’s for food and shelter.

These are the known facts about this pairing but Kwon has taken these bare bones and imagined their meeting, their time together, the family dynamics to which they were both beholden and the society in which they were embedded.

All of these things worked together to doom this pair and although they both knew it to some degree, they plunged into an intense relationship anyway. 

The book becomes a little repetitive in the middle as the author strives to have the reader understand just how different their worlds were. However, it makes for a rich tale of longing, hope and ultimately, tragedy. 

‘Vincent and Sien’ is for fans of historical fiction and those for whom Vincent van Gogh remains a troubled enigma all these years after his untimely and tragic death.

Available at your local bookshop.

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