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4.1 25
by Sheramy Bundrick

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In July 1888, in a public garden in Arles, France, Vincent van Gogh meets a young woman who will change his life forever. He came to Arles to escape the strains of Paris and find a different light for his painting. Meeting Rachel was the spark he needed to rededicate himself. Feeding off the energy of this fascinating woman, fighting the


In July 1888, in a public garden in Arles, France, Vincent van Gogh meets a young woman who will change his life forever. He came to Arles to escape the strains of Paris and find a different light for his painting. Meeting Rachel was the spark he needed to rededicate himself. Feeding off the energy of this fascinating woman, fighting the hopelessness deep inside him, Vincent throws himself into his work, .

Rachel, desperate to flee the shame of village scandal, is drawn to the loneliness she senses in this strange man. Filled with dreams and a love of life, Rachel strikes up an unexpected friendship with the mysterious foreigner. As she and Vincent grow closer, Rachel comes to believe that the man everyone gossips about could be the love she longs for.

But as time passes, she gains a deeper insight into a man struggling with personal demons. Can Vincent's growing attachment to Rachel save him? And will Rachel find the strength to stand by a man she has come to care for deeply, even as he spirals into darkness?

Editorial Reviews

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

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Sheramy Bundrick is an art historian and professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Sunflowers is her first novel.

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Sunflowers 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
kuhlcat More than 1 year ago
Rachel is the prostitute to whom Vincent gives his ear when he cuts it off. That is the only historical fact known about her. So the author took this seemingly minor person and spun a story about her relationship with Vincent during his time in Arles, France. Why would Vincent specifically ask for Rachel when he stumbles into the brothel that night? A good question, which the author answers with creativity and imagination. The novel is littered with imagery of Vincent's paintings, especially my favorite, "Cafe Terrace at Night". The descriptions are so well written that I could vividly see his paintings in my head and feel emotions that he meant to convey through his art. I no longer have to go to the museum to get lost in his work; I only have to open this book and choose a paragraph. This story is an emotional, artistic, whimsical journey through the life of a troubled artist. It makes Vincent a person instead of just a historical figure and gives life also to those who influenced him and loved him. It turns Rachel into something more than just a fille de maison, into a woman who held the heart of the artist. Reading this book was like following the swirls and brushstrokes of Vincent's own art.
Rumble8 More than 1 year ago
A story of Vincent Van Gogh that i had not known about previously. Historical fiction that feels very believable, as it is obviosly very well researched. She uses excerpts from letters written by Vincent's brother that add credbility and believability. I find myself continuing to think about this story, which I consider a hallmark of a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author has written an incredible novel, almost as vivid as one of Vincent van Gogh's own paintings. Pick up this book, you will not regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Haven't read it yet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A path black and worn. Metalic beasts roam. Be careful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ur locked go to next res.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An unforgettable novel, well crafted so that the reader is deeply involved. You won't regret it!
Dave_G More than 1 year ago
Easy read. A must for a Van Gogh fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mildred More than 1 year ago
Through a fictional romance of Van Gogh and a courtesan from Arles, France, the writer tells us about Van Gogh's life as a painter, his relationship with his brother, his travels, and his struggles with his mental illness. Very well written, I was delighted with this book.
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founder_bookclub_beauties More than 1 year ago
This book takes you on a journey through southern France during the last few years of Vincent Van Gogh's life. Through extenisve research the author is able to re-create his experiences in the the town of Arles, the assylum, and then his demise in Auvers-Sur-Oise. The story really develops around who the woman Rachael was, the woman that he handed his ear to after cutting it off, and what their relationship might have been like. It reads like fiction, like a love story, but with lots of historical facts weaved in. You will feel like you really know Vincent after reading this book. I felt compelled to constantly put the book down and go search out his paintings on the internet and study them as she described them. This is a great book for anyone interested in artists, historical fiction, or southern France.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sunflowers is a good stepping stone to exploring Vincent van Vogh's later life. Art historian and professor Sheramy Bundrick takes the briefest historical mention of Rachel, the prostitute to whom van Gogh presents the product of his aural mutilation, to develop a love story which spans his stay in Arles to his confinement in the asylums at Saint Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise. The historical facts and mentions of Vincent's paintings, including Gauguin's visit and the Yellow House, are well preserved. However, the superimposed love story shows definite signs of being Bundrick's first attempt at historical fiction. Narrated by a lovestruck Rachel, it only provides glimpses of the inner workings of Vincent's heart and troubled mind. The tone doesn't strike me as convincingly late nineteenth century Provençal; rather it reads as more modern, peppered with occasional words en francais. The prose, lapsing into polite letters without Rachel's commentary, is a shortcut to advancing the timeline towards the end. Nonetheless, Sunflowers either provides a springboard for van Gogh fans to learn more about the period, or stripped of the Vincent connection, an decent debut love story about what it means to love a mentally ill person. I found more pleasure learning about the Real van Gogh at the Royal Academy of Art's exhibit of his paintings and letters to coincide with the release of the latest edition of his correspondence by the Van Gogh Letters Project.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is so much information out there about VanGogh - this was a delight to know more about him from some one close to him. More insight and understanding of the man. Makes him more realistic and more human.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1888 in Arles, France, prostitute Rachel Courteau takes a needed time out from her brothel life that she embraced out of necessity when her parents died. She hides in a garden from the nasty cracks of the good citizens, but soon falls asleep. She is awakened by a thirty something red haired male who has secretly sketched her nap. Rachel assumes her visitor, the crazed artist Vincent Van Gogh is another client. He arranges a tryst but brings with him wildflowers. He begs her to let him paint her instead of sleeping with her as she expected. As their relationship blossoms in spite of his increasing bouts madness, she meets his friend Gauguin while wondering if she can ever be free of being a fille de maison as increasingly she believes it will not be with Van Gogh consumed by his lunacy. Rachel is the key to this terrific look at the life of Van Gogh as she brings freshness to the artist and the period. As Sheramy Bundrick notes in her afterward, there is little known about the real Rachel so the author took liberties with her, but tried to remain true to what is considered factual about Van Gogh; she succeeds. Fans of historical biographical fiction will want to read SUNFLOWERS, as art professor Sheramy Bundrick captures the essence of Vincent Van Gogh's Lust for Life (by Irving Stone) through Rachel's first person perceptions of the artist and his work especially SUNFLOWERS. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago