Christopher Moore is a master of the humor-filled, historical fiction with a fantasy twist novel. How’s that for a sub-genre? Sacré Bleu was my favorite read this January. BTW, you should know that the French expression “sacrebleu” is used to convey surprise, exasperation, or dismay. I was indeed surprised by how much I loved this book!
Moore takes a fictional young painter, Lucien Lessard and places him smack in the midst of a group of famous late-nineteenth century painters. After the painter Vincent Van Gogh is ends his life (or did he?), Lucien and his wingman Henri Toulouse-Lautrec try to solve the mystery. In the process, they learn quite a lot about a special color blue and also what it really means to have a muse.
Lucien is also the son in a bakery-owning family, so he’s got responsibilities. Henri, on the other hand, is a cad, heavy drinker, and man about town. They are the perfect foils for each other. Their interactions, and most especially Henri’s attitudes made me laugh over and over. Since I listened to the audiobook, I’ll admit my husband thought I was a loon.
There are so many fantastical plot points in this novel that staying spoiler-free is a challenge. But here’s what I loved.
First, Moore not only references real works of art, he includes them in the book. Now, they’re printed on matte paper so the quality is reduced. But the idea is fabulous and adds so much to the story telling. As much as I adored the audio narration by Euan Morton, I’d encourage you to track down a print copy of Sacré Bleu. It’s wonderful!
Second, Lucien and Henri travel all over Paris, even heading to Giverny and a few other distant locales. Without ever turning the book into a travelogue, Moore takes us to many enchanting places people dream about in France.
Third, Moore encourages you to be smart while you laugh. He adds philosophy and world history to his art history and color theory theme. But it never becomes overwhelming or dull. These are the best things about historical fiction. And who knew it could be so charmingly hysterical in the meantime?
I’m not a Christopher Moore connoisseur, but I may just become one after this book.