— ♦ —
Fans of Christopher Moore have reason to celebrate with the arrival of his latest novel, Sacre Bleu, where we find the writer in excellent comic form as he attempts to unravel the mystery of Vincent Van Gogh’s bizarre death.
Set in the post-impressionist art world of 1890’s Paris, Sacre Bleu tells the story of a young baker named Lucien Lessard, who has been schooled in painting by the period’s most gifted artists. Moore combines numerous genres and themes including mystery, science fiction, art, baguettes and syphilis, somehow managing to bring them all together by the story’s end.
Sacre Bleu begins with the shooting of Vincent Van Gogh at the hands of “The Colorman,” a purveyor of the blue paint considered sacred and used by many of the periods’ artists. It was assumed by most that Van Gogh had been driven mad by the effects of syphilis and killed himself. Lessard and his friend the famous painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec believe otherwise and set out to discover the truth. Their search brings them in contact, not only with artists such as Manet, Gauguin, Seurat, and Renoir, but their celebrated paintings as well. Along the way, they follow the few common threads that they have; the presence of blue as it appears in famous works of art, The Colorman, syphilis, and Juliette, Lessard’s sometimes girlfriend/model/muse.
As is often the case with Moore’s novels, Sacre Bleu travels back and forth through time. Most of the story takes place in Paris during the late 1800’s. It does however make a stop in 38,000 BC to witness the creation of various cave paintings, as well as visiting New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where many of the novels paintings now hang.
Through it all Moore puts his hilarious sense of humor to good use and spins a sweet tale of what the world of Post-Impressionist painters was like. The novel’s characters, while charming, hideous, bawdy and brilliant are completely believable despite the fantastic premise of the book. Especially appealing is Moore’s characterization of Toulouse-Lautrec, who spends a good deal of the novel’s time drunk with his pants down in the company of various prostitutes.
It is clear that Moore spent a great deal of time researching his subject and his fondness for it is evident. Great care must have gone into the publishing of the book as well. Printed in blue ink and lined with a map of Paris it is nearly a work of art itself. The book is beautiful and those who purchase a hard copy as opposed to an e-reader format are rewarded with copies of famous paintings which are scattered throughout the story.
Christopher Moore continues his run as one of the country’s most consistently funny writers, keeping company with Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Buckley. Sacre Bleu is a wonderfully silly read and should be at the top of the list for anyone who enjoys a good laugh.