The Yellow House

Jeroen Blokhuis

The picture inside Vincent van Gogh’s mind

Sample Passages

  • August 1888

    I’ve now read the article in l’Intransigeant twice and I slam the newspaper onto the table; I want to discuss it further but there’s no one here to join in. Yes, two customers who never give me a second look and are now at a table drinking wine with the prostitutes. And that man who has also been eating on his own, but hates me. Joseph, then. He’s walking around; I call him and point out the article but he is busy and keeps his distance.
    Outside the sun is still bright; inside, in the narrow café, it is dark. The air here has a certain chill. At the back is the bar, full of the glasses Joseph’s wife Marie polished this afternoon. She isn’t here now. Next to the bar is the low door to the kitchen. In the middle, on the wooden floor, a pool table. I look at the newspaper. The photo of the maison. A few days ago, when I was walking along there late in the evening, a group of people were standing in the street. Ordinary citizens of Arles, who ought to have long since been asleep, and a few girls and the patron. And only now, after I’ve read about what has happened, do I see what was written on their faces: the sinking sensation of a murder. All that blood and despair in their midst, and now they had to stand out in the cold, waiting until the gendarmes had finally resolved everything.
    The newspaper article is not so much about the murder as it is about what happened afterwards: the Italian suspects, and how all the Italian seasonal workers have been driven out of the city and how the residents showed their aggressive side, and how peace has since been restored. Have I noticed any of this? I haven’t heard any rumours or seen any patrols; I haven’t heard anyone talking about it. I was painting the entire time. This is the first meal I’ve had in three days. I missed it and now I want to conjure it up again but I can’t manage to reconcile what little I saw – those faces outside, the scantily dressed girls, the flickering lights, the door with the gendarme on guard – with the description in the paper. Joseph then comes up to me, thank God, and I want to ask him to explain everything to me in minute detail – if anyone knows, it’s him. I’m already poking at the article with my finger but he doesn’t react immediately. He’s got something better in mind, I see it in the way he frowns. Joseph in his beige trousers and jacket, his summer suit. Why is he wearing that suit now? It looks even tighter on his sausage-like torso, and the worn patches are turning a shiny yellow. He’s going to involve me in the situation, one way or another.
    ‘You have to do something,’ Joseph says. He’s put his hand on my shoulder.
    Do something? I don’t want to take his bait too soon. ‘It was delicious,’ I say, ‘the soup was delicious.’ His breath smells like carrots, potatoes, wine, thyme; he has just eaten some of that soup himself.
    ‘You have to do something, you have to go with those lads,’ Joseph says, ‘Benoît and Michel have to have someone else with them. There are still two more Italians, you have to go and get them. I would’ve gone myself, but does it look like I can leave now?’ He gestures around, as if the café is full of children. Now I notice the two men standing by the door; they seem to be conferring and occasionally cast darting glances across to either side of the street.
    Go and get them. They’ve chased all the Italians from the city. Except these two survivors.
    ‘They want to go now,’ Joseph says.
    Of course I actually belong with them, the Italians, but I’m going to join the stronger side, strength in numbers. Without thinking, take the easy way out – so be it. I wouldn’t need anything else, I could even give up my painting. I’ve already stood up.

Sample Information


The Yellow House, by Jeroen Blokhuis, paints a fictional picture of Vincent van Gogh’s life between August 1888 and December 1889 when he lived in Arles in Southern France and where he created many of his masterpieces.

In his debut novel Jeroen Blokhuis tells the story from van Gogh’s point of view, from inside his mind, providing a fresh and revealing look at how this intriguing painter worked.

In life, as well as in his paintings, this marvellous protagonist swims against the tide. Or as his on-off friend Milliet puts it: ‘You too are a real modern painter, with your pink sky.’ To be a good painter, any artist really, you need to look at things in an original way. In The Yellow House it becomes clear that this can be a great source of inspiration for the artist’s work, but actually quite a hindrance in everyday life.

The Vincent in this novel very much tries to fit in, but is often baffled by how people react. Almost as if he can only express himself through his paintings, which in turn flummox the public. In one scene people literally turn up to see Vincent and Gauguin paint Marie Ginoux, but he, Vincent, is just concerned about creating a good painting.

‘A person isn’t a landscape. I paint differently, more naturally.
I make it just as it is. The table in front. Yellow. Green. Hair. Nose. The figure. The table. Yellow wall. Her face will be grey. It’s not that beautiful, but I keep the grey. The grey with lemon-yellow.’

At this point, Van Gogh has fled from the dark sombre Netherlands of his youth, from Paris, and even from his best friend and beloved brother Theo, in search of the light, the sun of the South. The yellow house on Place Lamartine becomes his refuge but what about his hope of setting up an atelier with other painters, of making friends, and having a sense of belonging?

Maybe he can ignore children throwing stones at him but what when the boundaries between reality and his imagination get blurred? Enter The Yellow House and feel you’re sitting down and having a drink with Vincent van Gogh and see the world through his eyes.

The Yellow House is translated from the Dutch by Asja Novak.

ISBN: 9781907320569
Number of pages: 123
Price: £0


‘If you like Van Gogh, and if you love to explore the things that guide artists to create beautiful works of art, then this is a wonderful book.’ –  Around the World in 10 Books at the Bath Festival

‘The Yellow House is a bold piece of experimental writing, challenging but rewarding. For readers like me who love van Gogh’s work, it provides a fascinating insight into what it might have been like to be the artist: confused, hopeful, yearning, impulsive, lonely and self-destructive. It is also intriguing to see the inspiration for some of van Gogh’s most iconic paintings.’ – Gwenda Major on Nudge-Book

‘Jeroen Blokuis tells the story with an artist’s eye. He used detailed description with myriad references to colour, shape, texture, and the nuances of shadow.

I recommend this biographical novel to anyone who has an interest in art history, and of the iconic Vincent van Gogh in particular.’ – Fictionophile

‘It gives a well researched, sympathetic and realistic sense of the man Vincent.

it’s a great read, and is a must buy for those of you who love painters and artists, who love Van Gogh or ever wanted to know more about him, or those of you who like historical stories or mental illness narratives. Beautiful.’ – Hermione Flavia on her blog CravenWild

‘Blokhuis’ insights take us sympathetically into the mindset of marginalised people whose days are characterised by such things as dirt, disease and dead dogs that shock most of us and throw into sharp relief the moments of peace, tenderness and poetry.

In the case of van Gogh, the person he destroys is himself, lovingly recreated by Blokhuis.’ – Barbara Lewis on London Grip

‘Blokhuis has written in such an engaging and open manner, that you can’t help but feel as if you are there beside van Gogh.

I would happily recommend this novel to fans of Vincent van Gogh and anyone looking for their next great read – you will LOVE this book!’ – A Bookish Way of Life

‘Even readers who are not a fan of the artist, will find much to recognise in an empathetic portrait of a driven man finding his talents leave him on the fringes of society, observing but not invited to join in. An elegantly written, convincing novel that’s as layered and multi-dimensional as a Van Gogh painting.’ – Emma Lee on her blog

‘The book succeeds in showing why the Vincents of this world unnerve us so much when we meet them, why they shouldn’t, and how cruel it is that they do.

It’s a story that will stay with you and enable you to see old favourite paintings in a new light.’ –  Catherine Edmunds in Gold Dust

‘Being inside the mind of one of the greatest painters was intriguing and for the most part entertaining. We are able to discern the internal struggles as Van Gogh interprets reality and the 2-dimensional canvas world.’ –  The Incessant Bookworm

‘The artist’s mind is an unstable one, fragile, passionate, frenzied, well-meaning, yearning to be understood, confused, innocent, sweetly naive. After this breathless journey through his thoughts, I love Vincent even more.’ – Aletta Stevens on Amazon

‘The end of the book, where we learn of the depths of van Gogh’s mental anguish, is shocking, and I’ve never read anything quite like it.

After reading The Yellow House I came to the conclusion that painting was van Gogh’s way of communicating effectively with the outside world. He saw art in everything, and art was everything to him.’ – Shelley Lang on Fluent Fiction