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Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore
Review by Paul Haggerty
William Morrow Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061779756
Date: 09 October 2012 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Sacre Bleu takes on the art world with Christopher Moore's normal skewed perception of what is normal, or even real. On the surface, it's the story of a young artist, Lucien Lussard, growing up in 19th century Paris, a period when some of the greatest artists of history walked the same pavement as our hero. But, strangely enough, it's also the story of the color blue. But not just any shade of blue, it's the story of the Sacred Blue, the color decreed by the Catholic Church to be the only correct color for the cloak of Mary. Naturally, this was a very special, very expensive, and very hard to acquire color. It also happened to have a deep connection with the ancient pagans as well. And the pagan's were not quite as gone as the church would have like.

The narrative begins with the death of Vincent Van Gogh, who history would tell us committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest at the age of 37, but since no gun was ever found, there are those that would dispute that conclusion. The contention that he was murdered is picked up in Sacre Bleu where his death at the hand of the mysterious Colorman introduces us to a world where science and mysticism are intertwined with inspiration and insanity.

In the 19th century, there were no art stores where artists could pick up standardize colors of paint. Instead colormen traveled through the artistic circles, hawking their personal recipes. But the Colorman is even more special, as flashbacks throughout history show that wherever artists are, so is he. And central to his inventory of paint is the sacred blue that so many artists crave. And where he is, so is some beautiful woman, always a different person, but in many way as constant as the Colorman himself. The two are inexplicably linked to each other. Whether she's a farm girl or a shop girl, she is the muse, the woman the artists all want to paint. And, obsessed by the need to paint her, the woman the artists will gladly die for. Because for some reason, the great artists seem to die young.

Lucien comes from a family of bakers, and yet art has always surrounded them and shaped the course of their lives, both for good, and for ill. He is consumed with the need to paint (with a side order of extra-curricular activities) a young lady named Juliette, the current companion of the mysterious Colorman. His friend, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, worries about the young man, if for no other reason that he himself has faced the same temptation, the same obsession for a woman, so much so that he barely survived. Together the two men begin the dangerous task of trying to find out who the Colorman and his women are and why life takes a twisted detour when they're around.

But, in typical Christopher Moore fashion, the story isn't anything even approaching simple. There are dozens of characters, some historical, some purely fictional, all with secrets and unknowable motivations, some based on embarrassing histories, some just based on the fact that some people are nuts. Then there's the canvas of real history the stories is told against, with plenty of secret history that fills in the blanks between the chapters you were taught in school. The humor is irreverent, scandalous, and often insane. Like a slice of life in a funhouse mirror, reality is there, but not in a way you've ever looked at it before.

NOTE on Illustrations: The paintings included in the hardcover are also in this trade paperback. However, in the hardcover edition they were in color, in the trade paperback edition they are in grey-scale.

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