I could not wait to get a hold of Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore! According to the descriptions I found on Amazon and the like, this was a book about the mystery surrounding Vincent van Gogh’s death. What if he didn’t really kill himself? What if he was actually murdered? And what if his artist friends set about finding the killer? Now that sounds like a terrific book.
The only problem is that this book had almost nothing to do with van Gogh! He is rarely mentioned and makes no appearance after the very first chapter. This book is really about a fictional character named Lucien and his obsessions with painting and a girl named Juliette. Several artists do make appearances, including Toulouse-Lautrec who is a central character. But Lucien and Toulouse-Lautrec are not really investigating their friend Vincent’s untimely death. They are investigating a particular type of blue paint that seems to have a profound effect on all the great artists of this era, from Gauguin to Monet. In between copious drinking and frequent trips to brothels, they do manage to figure it out in the end.
But I had to wonder: why are the book descriptions of Sacre Bleu so misleading? My final conclusion is that this book is so bizarre--it’s hard to say exactly what it’s about. Lucien and Toulouse-Lautrec pretty much just bumble around until they make a connection between the blue paint and the man and women who sell it. So if you check it out hoping for the next Da Vinci Code, you may be disappointed and confused (this is not an art mystery). If you check it out hoping for something strange and fantastical, you might be pleasantly surprised. For those who already enjoy Moore’s irreverent style, this psychedelic trip through the art history of blue will undoubtedly be among the most unique books you pick up this fall. Just remember that it’s really not about van Gogh no matter what the book jacket says!