Synopses & Reviews
The lyrically told story of one of the worlds greatest artists finding his true calling
Though Vincent van Gogh is one of the most popular painters of all time, we know very little about a ten-month period in the painters youth when he and his brother, Theo, broke off all contact. In The Season of Migration, Nellie Hermann conjures this period in a profoundly imaginative, original, and heartbreaking vision of Van Goghs early years, before he became the artist we know today.
In December 1878, Vincent van Gogh arrives in the coal-mining village of Petit Wasmes in the Borinage region of Belgium, a blasted and hopeless landscape of hovels and slag heaps and mining machinery. Not yet the artist he is destined to become, Vincent arrives as an ersatz preacher, barely sanctioned by church authorities but ordained in his own mind and heart by a desperate and mistaken spiritual vocation. But what Vincent experiences in the Borinage will change him. Coming to preach a useless gospel he thought he knew and believed, he learns about love, suffering, and beauty, ultimately coming to see the world anew and finding the divine not in religion but in our fallen human world.
In startlingly beautiful and powerful language, Hermann transforms our understanding of Van Gogh and the redemptive power of art.
“The Season of Migration
is a masterpiece; it blew me away. A triumph of lyrical intensity, resonance of voice, psychological acuity, Nellie Hermanns novel has shed new light on the Van Gogh few people have known. Heartbreaking and beautiful.” —Mary Gordon, author of The Liars Wife
“Although we may know Vincent Van Goghs work, and perhaps the broad strokes of his biography, Nellie Hermanns extraordinary accomplishment in The Season of Migration
is to reveal him to us before he knows himself. Still years away from The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh as Hermann has brought him to life is aimless, wrecked, yet driven by the hope of finding communion with the lives he encounters. In language as moving as the work of the artist she renders, Hermann captures in vivid detail that critical period in Van Goghs life when, at his lowest point, he begins to find that connection through his art. When his artists eye finds flashes of beauty despite the grimmest of circumstances, the readers heart will sing.” —Mary Beth Keane, author of Fever
“In The Season of Migration
Nellie Hermann has constructed a spectacular portrait of an artist simultaneously alienated from and in love with the world. Her Van Gogh is extraordinary—as luminous and intense and strange in these pages as in any of his self-portraits. But the miracle of Hermann's writing is to make him ordinary at the same time. His struggle to live in a world terrorized by loss and the threat of loss is everybody's struggle, and as pain in life teaches him slowly to see, we learn to do it as well. By the end of the story Vincent, debilitated and exalted, knows what beauty is. The reader lucky enough to encounter this book will know it, too.” —Chris Adrian, author of The Childrens Hospital
"Hermann follows up her well-received debut (The Cure for Grief, 2008) with a sensitive novel about a crucial turning point in the life of Vincent van Gogh… [She] quietly shows van Gogh drawing compulsively as he trudges miserably through the countryside, poor, sick and starving but always looking with wonder at the world around him. …We know, although Vincent does not, that he is on the road to achieving the apotheosis he spoke of in happier times with Theo: "the way an artist could succeed at portraying a feeling in an image…translate not just the beauty of it but the exact joy that we felt." Finely wrought fiction eschewing the usual clichés about artistic inspiration in favor of deeper, more organic understanding." —Kirkus Reviews
Though Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most popular painters of all time, we know very little about a tenth-month period in the painters youth when he and his brother, Theo, broke off all contact. In The Season of Migration, Nellie Hermann fills these gaps with a profoundly imaginative, original, and heartbreaking vision of Van Goghs early years, before he became the artist that we know today.In December 1878 Vincent Van Gogh comes to the coal mining village of Petit Wasmes in the Borinage region of Belgium, a place as blasted and hopeless as the most desolated regions of Appalachia. Not yet the artist he is destined to become, he arrives as an ersatz preacher, barely sanctioned by church authorities, but ordained in his own mind and heart by a desperate and mistaken spiritual vocation. But what Vincent experiences in the Borinage will change him. Coming to preach a useless gospel he thought he knew and believed, he learns a better one instead in the devastated land and people of Petit Wasmes, whose love and lives—and ultimately whose disasters—he tries to share.With sumptuously visual language, and shimmering prose shot through with deep feeling, The Season of Migration powerfully and convincingly transports us into the head of one of our most beloved artists.
About the Author
Nellie Hermann is the creative director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. Her first novel, The Cure for Grief, received national acclaim in many publications, including Time, Elle, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.