Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art
It's the year 1890 and the art world in France is still reeling from the apparent suicide of Vincent Van Gogh. He shot himself in the chest and went to a doctor for help shortly afterwards, which seems counterintuitive. He didn't actually kill himself. He was murdered by a small man who calls himself the Colorman and sells quality paints to artists. He is always flanked by a donkey and a woman he calls Bleu. That woman's name is also Juliette and she has her sights set on Lucien Lassard, a baker who aspires to be a painter. Lucien and his best friend, Henri Marie Raymond de Talouse-Lautrec-Monfa, are investigating Van Gogh's death and see similarities to other painter's live that have ended tragically. Can they put together the puzzle before any other artists die? How is Juliette connected to the Colorman and who is the Colorman really? Will she prevent Lucien from solving the mystery and condemn him to a tragic death?
I will read pretty much anything that Christopher Moore writes, but I was particularly excited about Sacre Bleu because it's about art history and mostly the French Impressionist artists. I have always liked that era in art, but I never really thought that much about how the people painting these masterpieces would be in their day to day lives. Sacre Bleu portrays them as normal men in an irreverent, funny manner. Whenever I've heard about these artists at museums or in art history classes, I think of their lives as epic and eventful and more interesting than a normal person's, but Christopher Moore's story probably falls closer to the truth. They were simply men, many with torrid love affairs, venereal diseases, and substance abuse problems. These artists revered by historians and art critics were just people and not always pleasant or sober or even sane.
Bleu/Juliette is my favorite character in Sacre Bleu. She's the only major female character and she holds her own with all these famous and powerful men around her. She acts as a muse for the artists she manipulates and a goddess figure in this comic novel. That inspiration causes the artists to create faster and more intensely and better than they ever thought possible, but it comes at a price. I loved the reveal of her connection to the Colorman and of how far their influence in art history actually goes. I can't really talk any more about her character without spewing spoilers, so I'll stop here. Just trust me that she's awesome.
Sacre Bleu is a fun novel that blends art history and irreverent humor. This narrative is full of bawdy jokes, drinking, whores, drugs, and sex and it's incredible fun. There are paintings printed throughout the novel that help the reader visualize each artists' style and see some of the paintings described. I would recommend this to fans of art history not afraid to laugh a little or fans of Christopher Moore's work in general.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins