Friday, September 10, 2010

Sunflowers - Sheramy Bundrick

Book: Sunflowers: A novel of Vincent van Gogh
Author: Sheramy Bundrick
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Avon A
Published Date:  Oct. 13, 2009

I think it's high time I reviewed one of my favorite books from last year.  I can not believe it's taken me this long.  I was reading Sheramy Bundrick's blog Van Gogh's Chair long before I heard she was writing a novel about Van Gogh's life.  When it was finally published, I was going to run to the store to buy the book brand new (something I almost never do) when I learned I had won a copy at Book Club Girl and could participate with others in an online chat with the author.  I was so insanely excited.  Please click on the link if you want to hear that chat with her.

Anyway, to give a back story, I love art history.  It was one of my favorite things in college.  Vincent van Gogh, from the start, was my favorite artist.  I loved his humanity.  I loved his letters and writing.  I loved his emotional output in his art.  Suffice to say that while I was excited for Sheramy Bundrick's novel to come out, I was also a little nervous.  She could NOT ruin my Vincent.  So when I finally soaked up the last page I heaved a sigh of relief. She knew my Vincent van Gogh and had painted a perfect portrait of him in her novel.  Thank you Sheramy!

The novel is written from the perspective of a young Rachel Courteau who works at an Arles brothel.  It's through her eyes, as she becomes acquainted and falls in love with Vincent, that we see his final years progress.  We witness his "friendship" with Paul Gauguin, his depression and "madness," and above all his humanity as he tries to better his world and those around him.  But don't think that this novel is a downer at all.  Even though the main characters have struggles, through it all there is a perception of beauty, lightness, and well, just think of the Sunflowers.

I loved that she took an outsider's and maybe fictional character's perspective of Vincent.  I don't think anyone could actually write from his perspective except maybe through his own words.  He wrote a considerable amount and his brother Theo kept and preserved most of his letters. 

If you want to check out some of Vincent's writings, go to Van Gogh's Letters

This was always a favorite quote of mine of Vincent's (Arles, c.9th. July 1888):

Is that all, or is there more besides? In a painter's life death is not perhaps the hardest thing there is.

For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it. But to look at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots of a map representing towns and villages. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots of the sky not be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Isn't that just beautiful.  They've recently published a huge illustrated collection of his letters.  It's one of those things I'm saving up to buy:

Wow, searching the internet I just stumbled upon the Van Gogh Museum having an iPhone app.  Interesting.

Anyway, check out Shermay Bundrick's novel.  If you want more perspectives, check out:

Passages to the Past (Amy recommends)
The Literate Housewife
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Reading the Past
Historical Tapestry

Guest appearances by Sheramy Bundrick

Passages to the Past (Author Interview)
Reading the Past (Van Gogh, Reader of Novels)
Scandalous Women (Who Was Rachel)
Historical Tapestry (Why I love Vincent van Gogh)
Writing the Renaissance (Author Interview)
Versailles and More (Van Gogh's Montmartre)
Versailles and More (Author Interview)


  1. Great review Amanda! I adored this book and really need to re-read it one day. Thanks for linking to my interview with her...she had some great answers and is really nice.

    Oh I want his collection of letters too...very cool!

  2. Van Gogh was one interesting dude. Have you ever seen Vincent and Theo? It's pretty good and gives a good insight into van Gogh's life with his brother.

    The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is really worth a look if you're a fan and haven't been before. Tons of paintings as well as other things. It has a pretty awesome gift shop too...

  3. I haven't yet read this one, but it's high on my "wishing for" sounds fabulous.