Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Sunflowers; A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Sheramy Bundrick

When I heard about the book Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick I knew that I had to read it. I am a fan of historical fiction novels and am familiar with Vincent Van Gogh's work. The beautiful cover of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflower painting is eye catching and stunning. It is an integral part of the story and connects the characters deeply. I was most familiar with the story of Vincent Van Gogh's cutting his ear off for love and his questionable mental status. I was also familiar with his brilliance as an artist and especially with paintings such as Starry Night.

Sunflowers is told in the first person perspective of Rachel, a young girl whose parents had died and her only option was to live with her spinster aunt. Instead, she ended up on a train to Arles, France and forced into the life of prostitutution. Rachel develops a friendship with Van Gogh after she finds him sketching her when she seeks refuge from the brothel in a public garden. Their friendship quickly turns into love and romance. Rachel, unrealistically believes she can eventually marry Van Gogh her customer and lover and leave the brothel. There is a deep connection between Rachel and Vincent but his madness interferes. He is frequently hospitalized and then moves away from Arles and Rachel to be near his brother in Paris. I liked how the author used letters between Vincent and Rachel when he left Arles as a way to continue the first person perspective and add in Vincent's perspective. Rachel has many moments of naivete and obsessiveness towards Vincent that was at times annoying. She was deeply in love and dedicated to Vincent and he was the only person she felt connected to since she lost her parents. He became the main focus of her life. I think that most who are familiar with the history of Vincent Van Gogh's life know the tragic end it takes. I knew this and when I got to that part in the story it touched me deeply as I was rooting for Rachel and Vincent to have more happiness in their tragic lives.

I found myself wanting to research the artwork that Ms. Bundrick refers to in each chapter. The author has a reference at the back of the book that listed the paintings referred to in each chapter. I could go online and view the paintings as well which made me feel more connected to the story. The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery was a wonderful resource.

This is a debut novel for Sheramy Bundrick who is an art historian and professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Her passion for art and the artist is evident in her writing and style. There is also very strong character development in Sunflowers and I like how the author took factual information about Vincent Van Gogh's life and added the fictional elements. I look forward to more books by Ms. Bundrick and hope that she continues on her journey of writing Historical fiction related to art and artists.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick is definitely Book Club Worthy! This would make an excellent book to discuss with a book club as there is so much to discuss including the meaning of the title, the historical vs. fictional elements, mental illness, prostitution etc. There is a reading guide at the back of the book to guide the discussion. Sheramy Bundrick has a wonderful page at her website on suggestions for reading group meetings. She even has ideas for food, drink and music to make a fun themed discussion. Ms. Bundrick recommends listening to Josh Groban's version of Don McClean's song "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)". I found this video on YouTube and am sharing it here, it really is touching and meaningful to listen to after you read Sunflowers.

Thank you to Book Club Girl for sending me a copy of this book as part of the On Air book discusssion. You can listen to the discussion of Sunflowers with Sheramy Bundrick , here.

I am an Amazon associate.


  1. I enjoyed this book too, although I would have liked to have had a little more Vincent and a little less Rachel.

  2. Lovely review, Bonnie. Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists and I'm looking forward to reading this book.

  3. I haven't read this one but I'm joining to put it on my reading list for Xmas break. Great review.

  4. Another TBR to add to an ever-growing list. Thank you for adding such a special treat, Josh Groban siging "Vincent." Another list: CD's to buy...

  5. I've been reading such good things about this one. Great review.
    Got your email about the library book club. I'll email you after I get back from Thanksgiving :)

  6. Interesting strory about Vincent... Why did Vincent Van Gogh say about cutting of his own ear?
    Find the answer in an interview with Vincent (imaginary) in


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