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 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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061765278
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Pages: 401
Sales rank: 591,480
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 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.
LiterateHousewife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is widely known that Vincent Van Gogh suffered from mental illness. If a person knows anything about the man, it's that he cut off his ear for a woman. Who was that woman and why did Van Gogh do what he did? Sheramy Bundrick explores these questions in her first novel, Sunflowers. In her first novel, Bundrick looks at the last two years of Van Gogh's life through Rachel, the brothel prostitute with whom Van Gogh has fallen in love. She is a young woman who has come to Arles, France after losing both of her parents. She ended up at Madame Virginie's brothel. At 21, she was mourning her father and disillusioned with life. Then, she met an odd red-headed artist wearing a straw hat while escaping the openly cruel criticism of some local ladies walking in the park. Her life would never be the same.This novel is an example of what I really love about Historical Fiction ¿ in addition to filling in gaps in my knowledge, it makes me want to go and read more about the time period, event, or figure. I found over the course of reading this novel that I really didn¿t know much of anything about Vincent Van Gogh. I knew that he made some beautiful and interesting paintings. I was excited when I first discovered that he and I were both Dutch, but decidedly less excited when I learned that he cut off his ear. I had no idea what might have inspired his work or how he lived. The author did a wonder job explaining at the end what is known versus where she made educated guesses or took literary license. She also provided the name, date, and current location of all of Van Gogh¿s paintings discussed in the novel. Not only did I enjoy the time I spent with Rachel and Vincent in 19th century France, I spent time on the Internet looking up his paintings. Reinforcing the story with the visuals was a powerful experience for me.I enjoyed the character Bundrick created in Rachel. It was believable that she would fall in love with Vincent despite all of the warnings she received and his reputation around town. He, like her father, was a teacher. Vincent may not have taught art, but he never left Rachel out when discussing his paintings. He explained why he chose certain colors or what he was trying to express through his work. As Rachel learns, so does the reader. As much as I could see that their relationship would most likely end badly, I could see his draw on her and any other open minded person. My one concern with the way she was written it was that she had more freedom to come and go as she pleased than I would believe possible. There were consequences for being a prostitute in Arles and, at the beginning of their relationship Rachel very nearly risked being expelled from Madame Virginie¿s brothel, but I never got the sense of danger. Perhaps there were brothel owners out there who did not keep a vice grip on their prostitutes. I just found it somewhat convenient that she was able to come and go with Vincent as needed without constantly being scared of losing her position and all of the money she left in her room at the brothel. This is something that stood out to me, but it did not impact my enjoyment of the book.Although told from the perspective of Rachel, this is a novel about Vincent Van Gogh and it is a lovely tribute to a gifted yet troubled artist. It was a touch sad, but that was not unexpected given the subject matter. The time spent researching Van Gogh's paintings, especially those of the characters portrayed in the novel itself like the Roulin family and Dr. Felix Rey, was enriching. I am so glad that my husband's selection of a sunflower bouquet for my birthday prompted me to pick it up when I did. It made for a great October weekend read. Even if you don't have any sunflowers of your own at home, I would suggest this to anyone who loves both reading and art. It may even inspire you to head to the local florist to add a little beauty to your own life.
dissed1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a pure joy. Telling the unfortunate story of Vincent Van Gogh and the love of his life, Sunflowers brings to vibrant life a fabled passion all too easy to get caught up in. The side story of Vincent's descent into madness is haunting. Characters, setting, and plotline are all rendered memorably. Simply one of those books you can't wait to get back to.
mrs.starbucks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book fictionally details the infamous events surrounding Vincent van Gogh in his later years of life. I hesitate here because I don't want to spoil anything, but on the other hand a cursory glance at his wikipedia entry will reveal the most salient chapters. Historically, there is almost no information about Rachel at all, and so nonetheless this is entirely a speculative fiction told from her perspective about their relationship. The novel is simple in execution: you'll find no baroque linguistic constructions or anguished philosophizing here. Personally, I'm a little disappointed by that, but that's my own preference. I don't think that Rachel or her thoughts are unique in any way, and I found the most enjoyable passages were Vincent's interactions with his art and other artists. More could have been accomplished with this story, but it serves well enough as a simple romance.Let me add that there is a rather large chunk of author's notes and extras for people interested in the facts of the matter. I can certainly commend Bundrick for scholarship, and like most authors, I think that she will improve with each book.
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rachel Courteau was a prostitute in Arles, France in the late 19th century and in a chance encounter, she met Vincent van Gogh, thus beginning a two year relationship with him. Theirs was an odd relationship since she was a prostitute and he was fighting mental illness.SUNFLOWERS by Sheramy Bundrick is told from Rachel¿s perspective and follows her relationship with Vincent from his time in Arles to Saint Rémy to Auvers with the latter parts of their relationship shown through their correspondence. I was drawn into this book very quickly because I was fascinated with Vincent van Gogh and his relationships with his brother and with Paul Gauguin. The end of the book was a little slower for me because Vincent had left Arles and he wasn¿t as involved in the story ¿ I wanted more of Vincent and less of Rachel. I really liked Vincent ¿ he comes across as a kind, artistic, sympathetic man who loved his art, his family and children. He was frustrated because of his dependence on his brother and his lack of success. Rachel is also kind, but I didn¿t always understand her motivations. Ultimately, this is a love story and I liked it but didn¿t love 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.
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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.