four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
59-July-Aug-2012
user_rating: 
0

748298.pngChristopher Moore, the author of absurd comic fantasy novels (Island of the Sequined Love Nun [1997], The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove [1999]) returns with humor, zing, and rollicking storytelling in his latest novel. This time, instead of vampires (Bite Me: A Love Story [2010]) or marine biology (Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings [2003]), Moore turns his attention to Vincent van Gogh' death, complete with cancan girls, baguettes, and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

The Story: In July 1890 in Arles, France, Vincent van Gogh, soon after painting Wheat Field with Crows, went out into a wheat field and shot himself. Or did he? Christopher Moore untangles the mystery of van Gogh's death‚ commonly believed to be a suicide‚ as only he can, with crazy inventiveness and whimsical storytelling. In his version, a gnomelike man known as "the Colorman," a supplier of pigments, steps out of the field and demands a painting from van Gogh; after arguing, the Colorman' revolver goes off and Van Gogh later dies. When Lucien Lessad, an aspiring painter, and his artist friend Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec find out about their friend's death, they set out to discover what really happened.
William Morrow. 416 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 9780061779749

Dallas News 4 of 5 Stars
"The true joy in Sacre Bleu stems from Moore's writing. His writing contains the rare combination of poetry and humor; where one moment you find yourself rereading a passage for its sublime imagery, and the next, you are grinning over a well-placed wisecrack." David LaBounty

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"With Sacre Bleu, he offers another slightly twisted novel‚ this one about great painters and what inspires them. It's a sly examination of art, inspiration, everyday magic and some seriously over-caffeinated painters." Adam Wong

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Moore' work has tended to fall into what one critic called the ‘zonked-out comic horror' category, but Sacre Bleu is different. Let' call it historical comedy, with an emphasis on the comedy." John Wilwol

Houston Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Those familiar with Moore' work will love this rich story, which is full of gleefully anachronistic behavior and language‚ often pun-based‚ coming from artists we admire. Sacre Bleu is big fun, and it' worth putting up with some occasional aimlessness." Dwight Silverman

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Moore manages to veer amusingly through this well-traveled territory, grafting an inventive fable about the color blue onto the hedonistic, paint-spattered lives of these revolutionary artists. [A] marvelous, tongue-in-cheek, mythical exploration of the artist urge, brought to life." Marc Mohan

Critical Summary

If you've read and liked Christopher Moore' previous novels, rest assured that Sacre Bleu‚ somewhat of a mash-up of historical fiction, satire, fantasy, mystery, and science fiction‚ lives up to the hype. With a fondness for skewering history and tales thrice told, Moore is clearly intelligent, and he uses that intellect to poke fun at our heroes, to wisecrack about art history, and to invent stories, however ridiculous, about painters we all thought we knew. He also throws in information about methods of pigmentation, the history of Montmartre, and the backstory of several Impressionist works. Although some of the novel is slow going, Moore's crazed imagination echoes van Gogh's own.