17 year old Tara McClusky's life is hard. She shares the care of her paralysed father with her domineering, difficult mother, forced to cut down on her hours at school to help support the family with a part-time rest home job. She's very much alone, still grieving the loss of her older sister Van, who died five years before. Her only source of consolation is her obsession with art and painting in particular. Most especially she is enamoured with Vincent Van Gogh: she has read all his letters and finds many parallels between the tragic story of his life and her own. Luckily she meets the intelligent, kindly Professor Max Stockhamer (a Jewish refugee and philosopher) and his grandson Johannes, and their support is crucial to her ability to survive this turbulent time.
Although this book has dark, depressing themes it is also uplifting and a story of hope as well as despair. It deals with some sensitive issues, including suicide, but Tara's story is captivating and moving. I highly recommend this book by New Zealand author Mandy Hager.
Reviewed by Carolyn