By Sheramy Bundrick, Avon, Paperback, 2009, 401 pages, $14.99
A lyrical and passionate portrait of the last two years of Vincent Van Gogh's life, "Sunflowers" is a kind of love letter to the tragic artist. Written by an art historian with the fetching name of Sheramy Bundrick, the work is the author's first foray into the realm of fiction. She succeeds in capturing the emotional nuances, irrepressible aesthetic forces and, ultimately, the wrenching turmoil that swirled within and without the existence of the impoverished painter.
The story is told in the first person by Rachel Courteau, a beautiful young woman who has landed in Arles, once a notable French city. But Arles is now a backwater situated next to a rail line. "The city had two faces: the one travelers and rich people saw, and the one everyone else saw, with dingy cafes and tatty backstreets in sore need of sweeping." Her parents are deceased and Rachel's modest reserve of money has been spent. Prospects are very grim indeed when she meets a kindly prostitute named Fran