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Review: Sunflowers

November 6, 2009


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.

Sheramy Bundrick has included an author’s note in the back of the book.  In her research, she discovered that in his famous “ear incident”, Vincent van Gogh took the fragment of his ear to a brothel and asked for Rachel.  There is really nothing known about Rachel, so her parts of this story are purely fiction.  The parts involving Vincent are based on fact and are presented as historically accurate as possible, but this is a work of historical fiction.  You can listen to an interview of Sheramy on Blog Talk Radio.

Review copy provided by Book Club Girl.   I am an Amazon Associate.
34 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2009 6:51 am

    I think I enjoyed this one much more than you did! Maybe it was too girly? LOL!!! 🙂

  2. November 6, 2009 7:21 am

    Not that they’re really related, but this made me think of THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE by Michel Faber, which is about a prostitute-turned-kept-woman in Victorian England. It’s long and wonderful, and the first section is written in second-person point of view, which I just love.

    This concludes my random, early Friday morning rambling. 🙂

  3. November 6, 2009 7:35 am

    An odd relationship sounds like an understatement. 🙂 I know nothing about van Gogh (other than that I do like some of his work) so this sounds interesting.

  4. November 6, 2009 7:57 am

    I don’t know a lot about Van Gogh so I’m happy to read that his part in the book is well-researched. Rachel and Vincent’s relationship does sound odd but it also sounds fitting for him. It sounds like the book is a little bit more about the woman than about Van Gogh which is too bad.
    I enjoyed your review, Kathy! Thank you!

  5. November 6, 2009 8:01 am

    I think this sounds like such a great book! I currently have it checked out from the library so hopefully I will get to it before it is due back.

  6. November 6, 2009 9:20 am

    The book sounds good Kathy. I haven’t read it but I will look for it now.

  7. November 6, 2009 9:57 am

    I probably would have passed on this one had I seen it in the bookstore, but your review has me interested.

  8. November 6, 2009 11:24 am

    I do like these historicals where part of the story is very true and the rest is fiction. It’s like watching someone on the news and wondering what the rest of the story is like.

  9. stacybuckeye permalink
    November 6, 2009 11:47 am

    I don’t know anything about Van Gogh either, well, except for the ear. Looks like a pretty good story – and I lovethe cover.

  10. November 6, 2009 11:51 am

    Ooh, I have always wanted to read a book about Vincent Van Gogh. This sounds really good.

  11. November 6, 2009 12:27 pm

    I just started reading this one. I got my copy so late but the on-air interview was really good.

  12. November 6, 2009 12:54 pm

    I have always been fascinated with Van Gogh and this looks really interesting. Thanks for your review!

  13. November 6, 2009 2:01 pm

    I haven’t heard of this one, but it definitely sounds interesting.


  14. November 6, 2009 3:37 pm

    This one sounds really interesting. I love reading non-fiction or fiction about artists and their twisted up lives. Very interesting!

  15. November 6, 2009 4:15 pm

    Great review, I would love to read this one.

  16. November 6, 2009 4:41 pm

    Sounds like one I’ll skip. I think I’d want to read more about VanGogh and less about Rachel, especially since so little is really known about her.

  17. November 6, 2009 5:27 pm

    Lovely cover (of course) and excellent review! 🙂

  18. November 6, 2009 6:39 pm

    This sounds fascinating!

  19. November 6, 2009 7:44 pm

    This does sound interesting and I would like to know more about Van Gogh.

  20. November 7, 2009 12:21 am

    Love books where a little known character from real life is fleshed out. Will have to keep my eye out for this one, as Van Gogh was a fascinating character!

  21. November 7, 2009 1:06 am

    Vincent Van Gogh has alway fascinated me. I may have to give this one a try.

  22. November 7, 2009 8:05 am

    Nice review. I guess I have loads to read in historical fiction. Van Gogh’s life would make a interesting read.

  23. November 8, 2009 6:25 pm

    Oh, nice review. It sounds really interesting, I love historical fictions based on artists or people around them.

  24. November 8, 2009 8:37 pm

    I’m a huge Van Gogh fan … his paintings are just so unique and vibrant. I think this cover has the best cover art ever!

  25. November 9, 2009 12:43 am

    I echo Vivienne. I’ve always been fascinated by Van Gogh and this book sounds really good.

  26. November 9, 2009 2:06 am

    I think this is smoething I might like. Sounds good. Thank you for the review!

  27. November 9, 2009 10:51 am

    You really put me over the top in wanting to read this when you were talking about it on “That’s How I Blog”.

  28. November 9, 2009 10:58 am

    This is a book I would love to read. Thanks for the review.

  29. November 9, 2009 1:11 pm

    I am really sorry that you didn’t love this one. I read another review of it early last week and decided to add it to my wish list, so now I am torn about it. I do think the story sounds fascinating, so that’s a point in it’s favor, but I don’t really like it when a character’s motivations are unclear to me. Ah, well. I appreciate your review, it was very insightful and honest.

  30. November 9, 2009 1:54 pm

    Love the cover, but not so sure about the story. Thanks for the review B!

  31. November 9, 2009 9:56 pm

    Love the cover! I’d love to read more about Van Gogh so I’ll have to look out for this book.

  32. November 10, 2009 3:42 am

    This books sounds very unusual. I might give it a try.

  33. November 10, 2009 9:33 am

    I’ve heard a lot of interesting things about this book and I think it sounds great. Thanks for the review!

  34. November 12, 2009 4:21 pm

    I don’t know very much about Van Gogh other than the whole ear thing and a few of his brilliant paintings. This sounds like an interesting story though!

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