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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  2,221 ratings  ·  272 reviews

"I'd heard about him but had never seen him, the foreigner with the funny name who wandered the countryside painting pictures."

From a talented new author comes a poignant and haunting novel of creation and desire, passion and madness, art and love.

A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles to discove

Paperback, 394 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,221 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it

Oooh, what I'd give to see one in real life. 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 -
Connie G
Art historian Sheramy Bundrick wrote an engaging novel about the last two years of Vincent van Gogh's life. The book is narrated by Rachel, an orphaned prostitute he met in Arles in 1888 who fell in love with van Gogh. From a newspaper report, historians know that van Gogh presented his severed ear to a real Rachel during a bout of madness. The author has imagined the details of their relationship in this romantic story. For the sake of the story, Rachel seems to have quite a bit more free time ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: arts, hf, text-checked, france
I liked this book. The author has done impeccable research on the artist and his paintings, searching through all the letters and documents available. I believe the character of Vincent Van Gogh is accurately portrayed. It is very possible that he could have had such a relationship with a woman portrayed as Rachel, and her emotions were poignantly depicted. I love the vibrancy of Van Gogh's art, and that too helped me enjoy this book, but still only three stars. I debated between three and four ...more
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am particularly fond of liminal characters.(Liminality is a term for anthropology which means caught betwixt and between.) Liminal characters are outside the normal social structure. They can only bond with each other. This describes the relationship between Vincent and Rachel. Their liminal status gives them insights into each other's hearts and souls. Rachel can understand Vincent far better than Theo, Vincent's brother. Though the events described are tragic, I am uplifted by the fact that ...more
Sep 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
BAM The Bibliomaniac
How to explain this book? It's basically a historical account of Van Gogh 's life from a fictional perspective. Although Rachel did exist, nothing is known about her. This book really hit home for me as I too suffer from bipolar disorder. It was so easy to diagnose him after reading about his "crise". So unfortunate that no therapy or even valid diagnosis was available in his lifetime. Makes me realize what my gate would have been had I been born during another era.
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have always been intrigued by the story of Van Gogh cutting off his own ear and delivering it to a prostitute whom he was supposedly in love with. This book tells that story from the perspective of Rachel, the prostitute herself.

I was impressed with the historic detail, interwoven with time periods and speculations about the paintings. The author researched this book by using documents and actual letters written by Vincent and his brother Theo. Great attention is paid to that historical accur
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of Rachel, a woman who was the lover of Vincent Van Gogh, the painter. Rachel was a prostitute in Arles, France where Vincent spent several years painting. They fall for each other and have a very tumultuous relationship. Rachel struggles with coming to terms with Vincent's brilliance as well as his madness (this is the woman that he supposedly gave his ear to). I really like the character of Rachel and the character of Vincent. You can see how Rachel fell so hard for h ...more
This was an amazing work of historical fiction. This author took bits and pieces of real history and wrote an incredible work of fiction. There are very few books that I have read that have touched me so that they have made me cry. This one did it throughout the telling of a very sad fictional love story involving Vincent Van Gogh in the last two years of his life.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
DNF'ed it..

I just couldn't with the writing. Maybe it is as bad as I think, maybe it is just not my taste, but I couldn't get through it. I liked the way Van Gogh and the protagonist are written and the plot as far as I got (though very predictable).

The point where I lost it (SPOILERS AHEAD), and I mean physically slammed the book and exclaimed aloud, was when the protagonist says she loves Van Gogh SUPER QUICK (I'm talking like 60 some pages?), they have spent a total of like 5 days together?
Sasha Martinez
Sep 30, 2011 added it
Shelves: 2010
To be more accurate, it’s a novel about the love between him and Rachel Courteau. And it’s basically doomed love. What do you get when you pair a down-on-her-luck prostitute with a down-on-his-luck artist? And in 19th century France? Doomed love, I tell you.

We know all about the mythos of Van Gogh—how troubled he was; how plagued by a disorder that’s still under debate by scholars these days (hell, even I tried to diagnose him while reading this book); how (and this is something that strikes fea
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wanted to learn more about painters in the south of France and my friend recommended this book. It is fictional but weaves in facts about the troubled last couple of years of Vincent Van Gogh.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book because my mom picked it out for one of my former students who likes Van Gogh (@aileen!) and I had to do a little research before giving it to her. I didn’t know much about Van Gogh and his story is tragic. The book is written through the lens of his relationship with a prostitute, Rachel. I’m sad for Van Gogh and the hard life he lived.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderful biographical novel of Van Gogh's last two years. Thank you, Sheramy!!!
Art & Agony:
Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick

As I began reading this, it reminded me of Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Sunflowers also explores one of the ‘what if’ theories behind a classic artist - in this case, Vincent van Gogh. However, as I read on, the chasm between the two books grew ever wider. Having finished Sunflowers, I would not equate it with Girl With A Pearl Earring, and at the risk of sounding nasty - Tracy Chevalier is a highly skilled novelist, Sheramy Bundrick
This historical fiction of the painter Vincent Van Gogh is told from the perspective of Rachel, the prostitute to whom Vincent gifted the lobe of his ear in a fit of madness. Although very little is factually known about this woman, Bundrick has created an amazing love story that makes you want it to be true.

Van Gogh left his soul and spirit in the beauty and vividness of his paintings, and Bundrick builds her story around them and the many letters he wrote to his beloved brother Theo. Most ch
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 f
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a historical novel, loosely based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh - as told by his fictional lover, Rachel. I enjoyed the history part of the story, learning about Van Gogh, his paintings, depression, and lifestyle. Rachel, the narrator and Vincent's lover, is a prostitute in a brothel. Vincent and her meet in a local park, and he requests permission to visit her at the brothel. A romance strikes up, and the two are obsessively in love for the next two years. At times, I felt like this b ...more
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
I fully expected to struggle with this book as I'd just emerged from a prolonged journey through a thicket of fantasy novels and still had the fog of magic hazing my eyes. Instead, I fell headlong into Arles and the (partially) fictionalized history of Van Gogh's final two years of life.

I found the book a fascinating and very easy read. The author wrote in a way that took me past the written word and deposited me as a spectator into the scenes. She vividly painted, with words, the gardens and w
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Wish there was a rating between it was okay and I liked it. I did like the story told from the perspective of the prostitute girlfriend and it did make me curious about many things (love books that do that). I researched more about the lives of prostitutes in France in that time period for one. I have to confess I have never been a huge fan of van Gogh's work but I did look up a lot of his paintings on line and would actually love to visit the museum in Amsterdam to see his paintings in person.
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
An engaging speculation of a love affair between Vincent Van Gogh and Rachel, a young lady of the evening, during the final two years of Van Gogh’s life when he lives in Provence. Enhanced by Rachel’s deep appreciation of Van Gogh’s many colorful paintings during this period, the story presents a very sympathetic portrait of the artist as he paints gloriously, loves deeply, and suffers immeasurably.
Terrible, terrible, terrible. It was a cliched, sloppy mess. Art fanfiction (as I like to call it) can be a bit hit or miss, and this one was definitely a miss. When Rachel (view spoiler), I just started laughing. Didn't bother to finish it, and I don't think I missed much. We all know how the story ends anyway.
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: z2016
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 beautiful. Rachel's motives were a bit off for me, but I don't hold it against the overall story. I would definitely recommend looking at the paintings while reading. It greatly enhanced my experience.
Nov 28, 2009 rated it liked it
A 'what if' novel about Van Gogh. What if he had a girlfriend who was a prostitute during his last years in France...
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was very good. It made the mentally ill behavior and eccentric demeanor of Van Gogh relatable - it humanized him.
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful love story based on the last 2 years of life of one of the greatest painters known to man, and one of my greatest inspirations, Vincent van Gogh.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathie Kuehl
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting fictional story of the last 2 years of Vincent van Gogh's life and his intense and passionate relationship with Rachel, a young girl who is a prostitute. The book provides a great insight into the mental anguish and difficulties experienced by Van Gogh. Throughout the highs and lows of their time together, Rachel is very devoted to Vincent. She is deeply in love with him and wants nothing more than to marry him, take care of him and have a family. Like many struggling artists, l ...more
Sara Taylor
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was wonderful.
I've been intrigued by Van Gogh for a few years, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.
The whole book is just beautiful. The story, told from the point of view of Vincent's mistress, Rachel, is so lovely and full of hope. This was such a sweet love story based on historical events in Vincent's life. I hated that the entire time, I knew it couldn't end happily. I had such hope that this sweet story could be different than reality, because I enjoyed and dreaded e
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Intimate and engaging portrait of Vincent van Gogh. I really enjoyed the window into the last two years of his life from Rachel's perspective, and the speculation about her and Vincent's relationship was really interesting as well. I didn't necessarily appreciate some of the more *ahem* intimate moments, however considering the profession of the main character this is rather hard to avoid. And life my friends isn't always neat and pretty and I don't believe that it would be right to write a book ...more
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I am an art historian and professor at a state university in Florida, where I have lived since 2001. I grew up just outside Atlanta and earned my BA, MA, and PhD in art history at Emory University. My academic specialty is ancient art; my book "Music and Image in Classical Athens" is loosely based on my dissertation. "Sunflowers" is my first novel and was an opportunity for me to explore more deep ...more
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