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Off the Shelves: 'Sacre Bleu' paints art history in comedic light
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‘Sacré Blue: A Comedy d’Art’
Author: Christopher Moore
Retail price: $16.99
Bookmarks: Four out of five

Christopher Moore writes in his most recent book: “I simply set out to write a novel about the color blue.”

To see the twisted, unexpected tale he molded from such a broad concept is exactly why I enjoy Moore’s books.

Anyone can write about the color blue, or the 19th century Impressionist painters or the symbolic meanings of color in art throughout the ages. But if you tie them together with raunchy humor and a clever spin on historical events — including the idea Vincent Van Gogh did not commit suicide but was, in fact, murdered — then you have got the beginning of “Sacré Bleu.”

While readers witness Van Gogh’s untimely demise from the first chapter, the novel focuses on two other characters: a poor baker/aspiring painter named Lucien Lessard, and the historically renowned artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Lessard discovers his old girlfriend, Juliette, has returned to Paris after leaving him without a word two years prior. Despite his anger, Lessard falls for her again and finds a renewed fervor for painting Juliette.

When Toulouse-Lautrec becomes concerned about Juliette’s influence on Lessard, he discovers several of his artistic contemporaries are being influenced by the mysterious Colorman, with whom Juliette appears to share a connection. Stranger still, everyone in the art world is becoming enchanted by the most highly prized of all color pigments, the ultramarine Sacré Bleu.

Thus begins a mystery, and the line between reality and illusion becomes more blurred.

Moore’s trademark sexual humor and jocular vulgarity runs rampant. Toulouse-Lautrec is a debauched sex addict and absinthe-alcoholic, but he is by far the funniest and most enjoyable character of the story. Lessard gives readers a few laughs as the butt of jokes. We also do not get much depth out of the other characters either. They tend to flit in and out of the scenes quickly. But, the overall cast is colorful (pun intended) and gives a new humorous angle on the French artists of the 1800s.

The revelation of what Juliette and the Colorman truly are in the grand scheme of things is intriguing. And it is fun to watch Toulouse-Lautrec and Lessard slowly unravel the evasive truth behind Van Gogh’s death.

While some reviewers have said the novel is not as strong as others Moore has written, “Sacre Bleu” is nonetheless entertaining.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? Email her to tell her about it.

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