Title: Sacré Bleu
Author: Christopher Moore
Audiobook length: 11 hrs 40 min
Release Date: April 03, 2012
Source: personal copy
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, the 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.
I confess that despite being a Christopher Moore fan, I was reluctant to start this book. I don’t usually enjoy reading about art. Do I appreciate art? Generally. Do I understand the intricacies of composition and theme and whatnot? Not so much. So a book that revolves around art makes me anticipate my eyes glazing over. Thankfully, my husband is also a Christopher Moore fan and insisted we listen to this book on a recent road trip.
It’s difficult to decide how exactly to describe this book. At the beginning, we meet some artist friends of Vincent Van Gough, who has recently shot himself in a cornfield. What follows is the stories of these men, as well as a story that is older than man himself. Two constants in all of their lives are mysterious women and a certain shade of blue.
There is a lot of Moore’s usual absurdity here, but there is also a distinct strand of sadness. In many ways, this is not a happy story. There is a lot of desperation and a lot of depression, but perhaps this is the lot of the tortured artist. There is also a fair bit of meandering, and I may have slept through a section or two (we were in the car, after all).
One sweet spot for me is Moore’s portrayal of Henri Toulouse-Latrec. Ever since seeing Moulin Rouge, I’ve enjoyed stories that include Toulouse-Latrec. And he’s a rather large part of this story.
Should you expect to emerge from this story with a better understanding of art history? Probably not. But you will be entertained.
- “The plot is not a terribly complex one. It could have been relayed quite well in a short story rather than a novel, but then we would not have been able to hang out in late Nineteenth Century Paris with some of the most entertainingly eccentric characters you will ever meet, real or fictional.” — D.L. Morrese
- “While I do think that Sacré Bleu has a fascinating jumping off point (imagining another reason behind Van Gogh’s death), color me completely underwhelmed by this book.” — As the Crow Flies (and Reads!)
- “It is a fun romp through art history, and while the details may not always be exactly accurate (remember Lamb?) it is still a great introduction to some famous paintings.” — Novel Novice