I always feel like I should start with a disclaimer – I simply love Christopher Moore, and am predisposed to love anything he writes. If you don’t like him, I doubt I’ll change your mind, but just maybe…
Sacre Bleu is a story about reanimated corpses, paintings that lose their color, and baking rats in pies. It is one part art history lesson, one part murder mystery, one part guide to late-nineteenth-century French debauchery. It is interesting apochrypha about some very famous Impressionists, and the biography of the fictional Lucien Lessard.
Okay, really it’s Lucien’s story, and how he and Henri (Toulouse-Lautrec, of course) decipher the warning they receive from Vincent (Van Gogh, of course) about the Colorman and the women who inspired some of the greatest paintings ever – and never – seen. Our story has us traveling throughout the nineteenth century, discovering the real* stories behind some of the greatest paintings by Monet, Manet, Renior, Pisarro, and of course Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. Ever present is the sinister Colorman, his out-of-this-world blue paint, and the exotic Juliette. Or in Henri’s case, Carmen. Or in substitute-another-painter’s case, substitute-his-muse.
As I mentioned, I am predisposed to love anything Christopher Moore writes, but I did find it difficult to get started with Sacre Bleu. I can’t even put my finger on why it took me so long to get into it, because in the end I really enjoyed the story. I even learned a bit about the art history; thanks to Moore’s afterword (“So, now you’ve ruined art history”), you actually know what is real and what he has woven into a fantastical world. Ultimately I think Sacre Bleu is a worthwhile read, but if you’re trying to create converts to Moore’s work, I’d recommend starting with another novel.
*These could be real stories. How would you know? Even if you were there, chances are the reality you experienced may differ from the one described in the book. I mean, the sacre bleu doesn’t affect the observer. Or maybe it does and we just don’t know it. What is reality, anyway?