History tells us that in 1890 Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide.
But, Christopher Moore isn't convinced that history got it right. In "Sacre Bleu," Moore lays out a more interesting, though less probable, explanation for Van Gogh's death.
His explanation involves a storyline that goes back to 38,000 B.C., the invention of steam powered stilts for vertically challenged individuals, and whacking people on the head to test the freshness of baguettes. Along the way, the reader also gets a unique view of life for Parisian artists in the 19th century.
The title, "Sacre Bleu," (Sacred Blue) refers to the particular shade of blue that was traditionally used for the cloak of the Virgin Mary.
In Paris, artists often relied on pigment vendors for the basic colors from which the artists would create the colors needed for their paintings.
Many artists would buy from selected vendors in much the same way that a baker might use a certain brand of flour. However, there was one vendor, the Colorman, who chose the painters to whom he would supply pigments.
Twisted in body and mind, he selected the painters to whom he gave his own formulation of Sacre Bleu that allowed these artists to create exquisite paintings while causing mysterious lapses in memory.
One painter he selected, Lucien Lessard, was trying to understand the nature of artistic inspiration, and how it was connected to his love for an unusual young lady, Juliette. Unfortunately, Juliette was under the spell of the Colorman and it was he who sent Juliette to ensure that Lucien used the Sacre Bleu the Colorman had given to him.
Lucien and his fellow artists gradually came to understand the true nature of Sacre Blue, and together with Juliette, they worked to destroy the Colorman and free her from his control.
I always enjoy Moore's quirky, yet perceptive, way of looking at the world. He gives his characters a charming array of foibles and idiosyncrasies without turning them into fools and buffoons. I also appreciate the amount of research he puts into his writing. And, there is a genuine warmth and kindness that comes through in all of his writing. However, the language often is risque and that can be an understandable impediment for some readers.
"Sacre Bleu" joins "Lamb" and "Dirty Job" as my favorite Moore books. I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy them all soon.