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Books You Probably Haven’t Read But Should: Sunflowers

When Vincent Van Gogh infamously sliced off his ear, the local newspaper reported that he brought it to a brothel and gave it to a prostitute named Rachel. ImageLittle else is known about Rachel, although some art historians believe that she appears in a painting or two. In Sheramy Bundrick’s Sunflowers, Van Gogh’s story is told from Rachel’s point of view, with the author imaging that the couple’s relationship was not just personal, but romantic.

Most things I’ve read about Van Gogh focus on his mental illness (which some experts now believe may have been bipolar disorder) to the point of making him a raving lunatic. However, this novel focuses more on the man himself—a sentimental soul who worried about disappointing his beloved brother and who felt insecure about the fact that his ahead-of-its-time art sold less than those of his famed contemporaries. Many of the characters are based on real figures from Van Gogh’s life, including the Roulin, Ginoux, and Gachet families, who were the subjects of some of his works.

I felt like the story started a bit slow, but I eventually got so engrossed that I hoped it would turn out differently in the end, even though I knew it wouldn’t. Van Gogh’s eventual decline is handled sensitively and realistically given the time, and the scenes in the asylum had me wondering how his life and art would have been affected if he’d had access to modern medicine. I also spent a lot of time looking up some of his lesser-known works that are described in the book.

All in all, a very satisfying read. But I maintain that the best historical fiction about Van Gogh is “Vincent and the Doctor” from Doctor Who.

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Ready, set, go!

Ready Set GoFor the last 17 years or so, I have been primarily a healthcare writer. A few other topics make an appearance in my portfolio, but healthcare has been the dominant theme for nearly two decades.

And healthcare has been good to me: It was a growing field when I graduated during a major recession and was looking for my first job, and continued to evolve (and therefore keep me employed) for years after. I’ve met a lot of smart, highly talented people who taught me as much as my expensive master’s degree did, and many of them have become great friends.

I’ve always thought about writing fiction though, more so in the last couple of years. So now it’s time to stop thinking and start doing, which is one of the reasons I’m starting this blog.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day responsibilities of a household and kids, not to mention the healthcare writing that I will still continue to do (don’t worry, clients who might be reading this!). My hope is that this blog will remind me to keep up with my non-healthcare writing, and give me an outlet to work through some ideas outside of the more formal realm of my paid work. I’m also hoping that the occasional “Yo, Jules, ’sup with that novel you claimed you were writing?” from you all will keep me on track.

Thus begins my journey to becoming a published fiction writer. I’ve packed sandwiches and extra socks, and now it’s time to hit the road. Wish me luck.

Photo: Courtesy of Rico Shen, Wikimedia Commons

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