Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art

By Christopher Moore

The Short Take:

Did Van Gogh truly kill himself, or was it murder? That’s the question that drives this Parisian romp featuring many of the famed Impressionist painters, particularly Toulouse-Latrec. The plot is a tad confusing but this book is so much fun, who cares?

Why?

Moore writes joyfully absurd novels. In fact, depending on the topic (he’s taken on a Shakespeare play and the unknown years of Jesus) they can seem down right outrageous. This one is no exception with its supernatural elements, frequent “bonking,” and bizarre characters — real and invented.

While many artists make appearances — and advance the story — Henri de Toulouse-Latrec plays a central role, along with the baker/artist Lucien.  Known for his short stature and licentious ways as well as his art, Toulouse-Latrec is a superb choice for a witty and raucous book such as this.

Color reproductions of famous paintings are scattered throughout the text, providing the reader with a quick tour of Impressionist master works. There are also “Interludes” focusing on the color blue (the central theme for this novel), ranging from the source of the paint pigment  to how light absorption and reflection creates the colors we see. These factual additions not only help to advance the story but delight the eye and expand one’s knowledge (unless you really know your art).

Fans of Moore’s writing style should particularly enjoy this outing.

A Little Plot:

Van Gogh is murdered but everyone thinks it is a suicide. Lucien and Toulouse-Latrec have their suspicions and team up to discover the truth. Out of the blue, Lucien’s lost love, Juliette, reappears and insists on being painted.

There’s more to her than meets the eye, as there is with the mysterious Colorman who offers high quality paints for sale. What’s up? It’s too complicated a plot to pretend to describe further without ruining your fun. Moore keeps you wondering the whole time while you continue to giggle..

Moore actually has a blog that features chapter-by-chapter additional art and information about this book. You can visit it by clicking here. But you should really read the book first.

A little personal aside, I thought the author had made a major error by referring to a painting titled Luncheon on the Grass as a Monet. The famous painting featuring a nude woman and fully clothed men is a Manet! However, it turns out Monet painted his own Luncheon on the Grass. Monet’s ladies are fully clothed which probably explains why the other one is better known. Thank you Google, for making it so easy for me to see both paintings in seconds.

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