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Sunflowers Paperback – October 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; Original edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061765279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061765278
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In a knockout debut novel, art historian Bundrick (Music and Image in Classical Athens) brings Vincent Van Gogh's paintings and personal story to vibrant life. While Bundrick takes many liberties (recorded in an author's note) in her fictionalized account of Van Gogh's affair with her narrator, fille de maison Rachel Courteau, she gives Rachel such a believable voice that the proceedings seem genuine. At 35, Van Gogh meets lovable spitfire Rachel while surreptitiously sketching her in a garden. Having taken refuge in an Arles brothel after the death of her parents, Rachel greets Van Gogh as a customer not long after, and soon feelings blossom between them. Visiting friend Paul Gauguin and the cloud of Van Gogh's madness undercut the couple's bliss, as do financial troubles and Rachel's life at the maison, where she's kept a virtual prisoner. While infusing well-known historical moments (like Van Gogh's infamous self-mutilation) with vivid details, humanizing Van Gogh and putting his famous works in context, Bundrick generates an impressive volume of suspense, delight and heartbreak. (Oct.)
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Review

“In a knockout debut novel...Bundrick brings Vincent VanGogh’s paintings and personal story to vibrant life...an impressive volume of suspense, delight and heartbreak.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Bundrick’s well-executed historical-fiction debut will appeal to readers interested in artists and the dark forces that shape their fates.” (Booklist)

Sheramy Bundrick, an art historian writing her first novel, is up to the task. She conjures a poignant but ill-fated romance in 1888 Arles, France, between the mentally fragile painter and an obscure historical figure, a prostitute named Rachel. Fans of Girl With a Pearl Earring, take note. (USA Today)

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Customer Reviews

Van Gogh, with his love for sentimental novels, would certainly approve.
CatLady88
Sunflowers is a rich novel of historical fiction that combines in-depth factual research with a vivid portrayal of Vincent van Gogh's world.
Vanitha Sankaran
It turned out better than I expected, because Bundrick writes well and I was drawn into the story.
DvoraT

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sensual Artist on February 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Sheramy Bundrick's first novel based on art history is a gem of a book. "Sunflowers" is the story of Vincent Van Gogh's last 2 years of life as seen through the eyes of his Arlesienne prostitute lover, Rachel Courtreau.

Ms. Bundrick, an art historian at a Florida University, has taken the facts of Van Gogh's tortured life and woven them with beautiful descriptions of the time, place and people he painted. As if this information wasn't enough to base her novel on, Ms. Bundrick takes us inside the artist's head through his "imagined but possible" conversations with M. Roulin, Dr's Rey and Peyron, M. Trabuc, and others who featured in Van Gogh's brightly colored canvases. What caused Van Gogh's madness??? Was he bi-polar? Did he suffer from epilepsy? Did he feel the constant pressure to paint and be understood like all artists do?One can only imagine....

Rachel's part as Van Gogh's love interest, serves a dual purpose of "setting the scene". Through her story, we see the beautiful colors of the South of France, the artist's process, the weather, the festivals, the town of Arles as Van Gogh would have seen it, and what a woman's life was like if and when fate intervened.

A great way to enjoy this book even further would be to have an art book on hand that features Van Gogh's paintings.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By K. Steinberg on November 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book because I enjoy historical fiction, the lives of creative geniuses, and severe mental illness. I think the author brought light to the topic of madness and creativity, how the two went hand-in-hand for Van Gogh, and illustrating the devastating effect the episodes ("crise") must have had on his personal relationships and his art. The author also does a very nice job of describing the places, sights, smells, sounds, and colors of the world of Vincent Van Gogh in the last two years of his life.

Unfortunately the love story for me was just a bit too sappy, but then I'm not a big romance reader. The love story didn't seem very sophisticated. I also found some of the characters a bit unbelievable--especially Dr. Rey, who is supposed to be very nice and normal, but his reaction to Rachel seems extremely naive considering that he is supposed to be a full-grown man who had gone through college and medical school. I did appreciate that even though the heroine was a prostitute there were no detailed graphic descriptions of sex, which I think would have detracted from the beauty of the book.

Overall, I found the sappiness of the love story distracting, but the author's loving description of the art and the way she makes the places and times come alive made the book enjoyable.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
First time author and art historian Sheramy Bundrick takes a character who is a mere footnote in history - a prostitute by the name of Rachel was presented with Vincent Van Gogh's severed ear by the artist himself - and spins an artful (pun intended) tale around what-might-have-been. Told from the first person POV, Rachel awakes from a nap in a city garden to find a odd gentleman sketching her - and a new friendship begins that quickly turns to love - although Rachel's love is strongly tested when Vincent begins displaying bouts of madness and he is hospitalized and eventually taken away from Arles and Rachel. Can their love survive? Can Vincent overcome his madness and marry her? If you don't want to know the answers before reading the book stay off the internet.

Outside of a few minor quibbles, I found this was a very entertaining, albeit a quick and light read (heh, after Wolf Hall anything would be light and easy). I'm not terribly fond of the first person narrative, although it did work well here, especially seeing Rachel's reactions to Vincent's madness as well as to his paintings (nicely done), but it did box the author in when she had to use *letters* between Rachel and Vincent later in the book. There was more black and white in some characters than I care to see (argh! the prostitutes with the heart of gold), and perhaps some of the language (especially the cursing) was a bit too modern. Although I haven't a clue how any Frenchman (in this century or the last) swears so what do I know? Rachel seemed to have a touch too much freedom, both coming and going from the brothel as well as when Vincent was in the asylum - but those are all minor nits on an otherwise engaging tale.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Cowell VINE VOICE on October 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Rachel, the young woman who narrates this tender novel, makes her living in a brothel where she has landed through bad fortune. First meeting the 35-year-old Vincent van Gogh as a customer in their town of Arles in the south of France, she soon begins to fall in love with this moody, sometimes sickly and brilliantly gifted man. He needs and loves her but is obsessed by his work, hasn't a penny and is supported by his brother; it is also unlikely that his good middle-class family will accept her. Even as they promise to marry each other and somehow make a life together, he begins his periodic collapses and intermittent weeks and months of madness which force him into a hospital where she often cannot even see him. Eventually his brother moves him far away near Paris, and still their passionate letters and hopes continue.

It is interesting that within the pages of SUNFLOWERS, it is first Van Gogh whose brilliant if erratic light shines over all the chapters like the sun over fields at midday and slowly, as the book progresses, Rachel emerges more as a person until you finally see that though he is the genius, she is the stronger one and the one who will actively struggle to make a life for both of them even with his bouts of madness. When he collapses, she goes on; when he can decide nothing, she makes plans as she can. Still, without money and with his brother deciding Vincent's course and mostly with Vincent retreating again and again, Rachel's struggle is momentous. The final chapters (I will not divulge them here) were particularly moving to me. It made me want to read it all again.

Anyone who loves novels about artists and the passion to create should read this book.

I am the author of MARRYING MOZART and CLAUDE AND CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET (April 2010).
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