I have always been fascinated by Van Gogh's art, with a special feeling for the Sunflower series
of paintings. They absolutely look alive! I just had to read this book, and was not disappointed.
Sheramy Bundrick is a gifted new author with a haunting story of unexpected love and passion,
madness and a great talent that was not properly recognized during Van Gogh's lifetime.
Rachel, a prostitute, has fallen asleep in a public garden in Arles. When she wakes, she
discovers that she is being sketched by the red-headed man in a yellow straw hat, whom people
are calling strange. This meeting is the beginning of a love relationship that transcends life,
between eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh and the young prostitute. Rachel's profession is one
of necessity rather than choice. Vincent courts her at the brothel at No. 1, Rue du Bout d'Arles,
with flowers in hand wanting to paint her portrait.
Both Rachel and Vincent have demons to deal with: her difficult life leading up to prostitution
and Vincent with an internal war of his own. He paints everything he sees like one possessed.
Things begin to change when Paul Gauguin, a painter friend, moves in with Vincent as the two plan
to start an artists' colony. They don't see eye to eye on most things, and Vincent is plagued with
financial problems, with his brother providing most of his support. Vincent's mental cognition
begins to crumble, and one climactic episode sends Vincent into a total breakdown. When he
presents the severed piece of his ear to Rachel, it sends her into a state of shock and makes her
question her own motives and resolve. Vincent's recurring episodes of madness land him in an
institution, but Rachel's love is the forever kind, and she wishes only to help him overcome
Sheramy Bundrick's version of the great love of Van Gogh's life is a mesmerizing story that had
me in tears more than once. Rachel is barely mentioned in the historical accounts of Van Gogh's
life, but Bundrick's vivid imagination fills in the blanks as it might have been, and populates it
with characters who will haunt me from now on.