The Lost Sunflower: our latest fiction titles

Van Gogh Animation GIF

Image via Giphy

Welcome to another selection of new fiction titles. As is now customary, we like to pick one aspect of one of the books on offer and explore it a bit further. The title that caught our eye this month was The Lost Van Gogh by Jonathan Santlofer – a novel which revolves around the discovery of a long-lost Vincent Van Gogh self portrait and the mysteries surrounding it.

The premise to this book is entirely fictional but in reality, there is a lost Van Gogh masterpiece. As well as his self-portraits Van  Gogh was, of course, famous for his luminous paintings of sunflowers . He painted eight in total; six are in major public collections, one in private hands and one is lost.

In 1920 a Japanese collector bought a Vincent Van Gogh painting called Six Sunflowers, painted in 1888, and they took it to Japan shortly after its purchase. It was quite unlike any of the other sunflower paintings – being influenced by Van Gogh’s interest in Japanese woodblock art, and it was framed in a bright orange frame, revolutionary for the time, that complimented the colours used in the work.  Tragically, this masterwork was destroyed in the Osaka fire bombings at the end of World War II in 1945. We are, however, fortunate that some photographs of the painting were taken before it was lost and you can see one of those photographs here.

Van Gogh loved the perceived coarse and unrefined nature of sunflowers’ structure. As well as their colours and relationship with the sun, he also intended them to symbolise gratitude. Indeed, he decorated Paul Gauguin’s room with sunflower paintings when he stayed with him at the yellow house in Place Lamartine in Arles southern France.

We also have copies of  the already heavily  acclaimed Lioness by Emily Perkins just in and a host of other goodies.

The lost Van Gogh : a novel / Santlofer, Jonathan
“For years, there have been whispers that, before his death, Van Gogh completed a final self-portrait. Curators and art historians have savored this rumor, hoping it could illuminate some of the troubled artist’s many secrets, but even they have to concede that the missing painting is likely lost forever. But when Luke Perrone, artist and great-grandson of the man who stole the Mona Lisa, and Alexis Verde, daughter of a notorious art thief, discover what may be the missing portrait, they are drawn into a most epic art puzzles. When only days later the painting disappears again…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Lioness / Perkins, Emily
“From humble beginnings, Therese has let herself grow used to a life of luxury after marrying into an empire-building family. But when rumours of corruption gather around her husband’s latest development, the social opprobrium is shocking, the fallout swift, and Therese begins to look at her privileged and insular world with new eyes. In the flat below Therese, something else is brewing. Her neighbour Claire believes she’s discovered the secret to living with freedom and authenticity, freeing herself from the mundanity of domesticity. Therese finds herself enchanted by the lure of the permissive zone Claire creates in her apartment – a place of ecstatic release. All too quickly, Therese is forced to confront herself and her choices – just how did she become this person? And what exactly should she do about it?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as a Book club Kete  and an eBook.

Martyr / Akbar, Kaveh
“Cyrus Shams is a young man grappling with an inheritance of violence and loss: his mother’s plane was shot down over the skies of the Persian Gulf in a senseless accident; and his father’s life in America was circumscribed by his work killing chickens at a factory farm in the Midwest. Cyrus is a drunk, an addict, and a poet, whose obsession with martyrs leads him to examine the mysteries of his past—toward an uncle who rode through Iranian battlefields dressed as the angel of death to inspire and comfort the dying, and toward his mother, through a painting discovered in a Brooklyn art gallery that suggests she may not have been who or what she seemed.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Then the fish swallowed him : a novel / Aḥmadī Āriyān, Amīr
“Yunus Turabi, a bus driver in Tehran, leads an unremarkable life. A solitary man since the unexpected deaths of his father and mother years ago, he is decidedly apolitical — even during the driver’s strike and its bloody end. But everyone has their breaking point, and Yunus has reached his. Handcuffed and blindfolded, he is taken to the infamous Evin prison for political dissidents. Inside this stark, strangely ordered world, his fate becomes entwined with Hajj Saeed, his personal interrogator. The two develop a disturbing yet interdependent relationship, with each playing his assigned role in a high stakes psychological game of cat and mouse, where Yunus endures a mind-bending cycle of solitary confinement and interrogation.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The goodbye cat : seven cat stories / Arikawa, Hiro
” Against the backdrop of changing seasons in Japan, we meet Spin, a kitten rescued from the recycling bin, whose playful nature and simple needs teach an anxious father how to parent his own human baby; a colony of wild cats on a popular holiday island show a young boy not to stand in nature’s way; a family is perplexed by their cat’s undying devotion to their charismatic but uncaring father; a woman curses how her cat will not stop visiting her at night; and an elderly cat hatches a plan to pass into the next world as a spirit so that he and his owner may be in each other’s lives forever.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The endurance of wildflowers / Smeltzer, Micalea
“When I met Thayer Holmes, I had no idea how much he would single-handedly change my life. Our journey hasn’t been an easy one, but it has been ours. We’ve fought through the impossible and come out stronger because of it. But happily-ever-after isn’t a destination. It’s a never-ending road trip with bumps along the way. Some bumps are bigger than others, but none of it matters as long as we have each other, right?” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Politica / Kassab, Yumna
“The war broke out and she decided to call her dad. Weeks and weeks they do not speak, and the weeks become months and then they are so many years. She imagines herself starting this story. She imagines how she will tell this story later to someone else. We hadn’t spoken for years but then the war broke out. As conflict plays out across an unnamed region, its inhabitants deal with the fallout. Families are torn apart and brought together. A divide grows between those on either side of the war, compromises are struck as the toll of violence impacts near and far. We learn about those who are left behind and those who choose to leave in a great scattering. As the stories of those affected play out, they weave together to show the whole of a society in the most extreme of circumstances. Even after the last shot is fired, their world will never recover.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The walking frame war / Dwyer, Denis
“Rose Finch is the owner/manager of the Sunset Rest Home. She is determined the home will not be the loveless mausoleum of a retirement home where her grandparents Tom and Marjorie, who raised her, saw out their days. Rapacious property developer Kyle Skinner craves the rest home’s prestigious waterfront site on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Rose is also being hounded to sell by her son and daughter Ken and Caroline who want ‘seed’ money for their business enterprises. It is bad enough to lose a flat in your twenties let alone your home in your eighties and the residents rally behind their beloved Rose. The private lives of the leading characters begin to influence events in unexpected ways. There is suspicion, treachery, and mischief. As relationships evolve, some deep emotional scars are revealed, and the characters are compelled to look at themselves and their situations afresh. The minefield of internet dating causes major upheavals.” (Adapted from Catalogue)