Sacré Bleu

[Amazon Link]

Or, as they say in Canada: Soccer Blue!

It's always a pleasure to read a Christopher Moore book. Like nobody else. Reliably funny, ribald, profane, demented, inventive. And I mean that in the nicest way.

And it's another unlikely subject: mostly set in late 19th Century France, and built around the lives of the Impressionists. A host of actual people appear: primarily Toulouse-Lautrec, but also Van Gogh (briefly), Monet, Pissaro, Seurat, Renoir,… It was enough to make me wish I'd paid more attention in Art History class. Oh, wait. I never took an Art History class. (Mr Moore has a chapter guide on the web to provide more background; his research is impressive.)

I don't want to give the impression that the book is overly intellectual and pretentious. It's fun, even if you're an ignorant philistine like me. Sacré Bleu is technically a profanity, but refers to the color associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The plot of the book turns around that particular shade of blue paint, available only from The Colorman. The Colorman is a disgusting little troll, and he's often in the company of a beautiful woman. They have a complex relationship, and a near-complete disregard for human life.

The hero of the book, Lucien, is a baker, but also a gifted painter. He is enraptured and inspired by Juliette, who poses for him, but also takes him on inexplicable mysterious jaunts during which time in the outside world seems to stop. Lucien becomes a detective (with sidekick Toulouse-Lautrec) to find out what's going on. And, as it turns out, it's an era-spanning tale, full of deception, violence, and art.