Sacré Bleu: A Comedy D'Art
Author: Christopher Moore
Paperback: 394 pages
Publisher: William Morrow/Harper Collins
Published date: October 2012
FTC: Requested to review from William Morrow
When I first heard of Sacré Bleu I was dying to read it. I adore Vincent van Gogh (you MUST read Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick) and while I'm not a huge fan of the Impressionists, my mom is a fan and I grew up knowing a lot of the art. That said I had never read a Christopher Moore novel but knew he was a tongue-in-cheek type of writer.
I'll admit I'm torn on exactly how I feel about this book. Moore obviously spent a lot of time getting to know this time period, the artists, and their paintings and it really shows. If you've ever wanted to be thrown into what it was like in Paris during this period, read this book. On the other hand, Moore's tongue-in-cheek is often a tad crude. Although it's really not like these artists were saints so he probably didn't go too far out of bounds. That and the blue lady featured on the cover is actually a huge character and part of the book and I'll admit that it was a fascinating sort of fantasy almost mythological thing going on that was pretty freaking original.
Back of the book:
In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he?
Vincent's friends, baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, have their doubts. Now they're determined to answer the questions surrounding van Gogh's untimely death -- like who was the crooked little "color man" Vincent claimed was stalking him across France...and why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of blue? Ooh la la, quelle surprise, and zut alors, what follows is a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late-nineteenth century Paris, as the one, and only, Christopher Moore cooks up a delectable confection of intrigue, passion, and art history...with cancan girls, baguettes, and fine French cognac thrown in for good measure.
Ok. What I loved about this book.
Getting to know the artists that flittered through the pages. While I knew most of the artists mentioned in the book, it was so much fun to be immersed into their world and see these artists, now legends, just going about their days and lives. I was under no illusions that these artists were saints so that was not a huge shock for me. In fact, I loved that one of the main characters was Henri Toulouse-Lautrec who always seemed like such a fascinating character...and Christopher Moore put a voice to him that made me enjoy him even more.
The book itself is well written making me curious to check out other Moore novels. I also enjoyed the thought that went into the book - the map at the beginning, the research that went into the story, and I give a huge thumbs up to Moore for including some paintings as he mentions them throughout the book. The story isn't linear either as it changes character perspective and goes back in time (it makes perfect sense when you are reading it).
What made me really enjoy this book is the originality of the almost mythological storyline Moore created. Without wanting to give away much, the idea of the muse and the sacred color blue which is really fascinating. I really had no idea of that before I had read this book. Moore has a really good Afterward in this book called So, Now You've Ruined Art which is quite fascinating. He mentions quite a few books and things that helped and made him write this book. One book I'd heard of is Color by Victoria Finlay which I've been wanting to check out. He also mentions what started his idea of this book is the question of Vincent van Gogh's death. Who goes out to paint, shoots himself in the chest, and then walks a mile for help? Odd? I totally agree.
My two biggest hang-ups were the length and some of the language. It's 394 pages but the writing is pretty small and and while I was enjoying the story, there was a point about halfway through that I kind of wish it would pick up the pace. Then there's some of the language. I get sex and foul language if it makes sense in the story and with the characters. But sometimes in this one it made it a tad distracting - like I had to be reminded that this was a silly book and not to take it too seriously. An example is one character's nickname for another character is Poop Stick. Ok. Slightly juvenile. But sometimes it just seemed overtly crude.
Did I like Sacré Bleu? Yes. Was it perfect? No, but probably only because my expectations are super high.
P.S. Montmartre - I stayed there my first time to Paris (I'm saying first because I WILL go back) and I loved that it played such a huge part in these artists lives: