Nancy's Reviews > Sunflowers

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick
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's review
Apr 09, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 19th-century, art-artists, romance, france, epistolary, historical-fiction
Read from June 21 to 27, 2011 — I own a copy

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 chapters begin with quotes from these letters and whole chapters are composed of both real correspondence between Vincent and his brother and imaginary letters between Vincent and his lover. And, being a fan of the epistolary format, I loved these parts of the novel.

The painter Paul Gauguin figures in the story and is depicted as arrogant and rude. The suggestion is made that he copied his ideas from other artists. Both he and Van Gogh imbibed heavily in the highly intoxicating drink Absinthe and one theory proposes this contributed to Vincent’s madness, though the author suggests in her afterward that most psychiatrists believe he was bi-polar.
Vincent tells Rachel in Bundrick’s story, that painting is the only thing that does him good—it drives away the abnormal ideas that fill his head.

Though “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night” are imprinted in my brain, I was motivated to look up some of Van Gogh’s more obscure work on the internet. He was a tortured soul, but he left a magnificent body of work to be enjoyed by the world.
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