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Sunflowers Paperback – October 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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“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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Has anyone counted how many times Rachel, Van Gogh, or others "blushed" or "turned red" or "pink"? Read morePublished 2 months ago by C. Morrison
I really enjoyed this book. Which is surprising, because I'm not usually into historical romances. I'm also not very knowledgeable about van Gogh, but I thought the story was... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Delta Stet
Wow, what an amazing story of the artist. Well written and definitely captured me. True love and this book had me in tears.Published 3 months ago by Euni
As a huge Van Hugh fan, it too me a while to settle into this historical fiction novel but I really enjoyed the way they portrayed the artist and the ending was beautiful but very... Read morePublished 14 months ago by cgar