Rated of 5
by Betsey V. (Austin, TX)
A case of the "blues."
Moore’s mystical, mordant comedy starts off with a bang—literally. Van Gogh shoots himself in a wheat field, and then walks a mile to seek medical attention. Why try to commit suicide and then ask for help? That is a mystery, one of several in this bawdy revisionist history of the French Masters. It’s an artful madcap romp and roll of fin de siècle France. Sacré bleu refers to an ultramarine color adorned by the Blessed virgin, but it’s also French profanity for blasphemous cursing. In other words, sacré bleu covers territory from the sacred…to the profane, just like Moore’s comedy d’Art of the late nineteenth century Impressionists.
A mystifying woman, Juliette, is the muse for Lucien Lessard, a baker turned painter. Lessard’s closest friend is painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the bon vivant frequenter of bars, baguettes, and brothels. Henri and Lucien find themselves chasing love and the “blues” in this absurdist, and, to some degree, shaggy dog story where a dwarf and a donkey seem mysteriously connected to the great passions and masterpieces of Seurat, Manet, Pissaro, Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, and others of this era.
Colorful anecdotes of the great painters add fine brushstrokes to the story’s ribald and ruddy complexion, and are just as entertaining as the story’s central premise. The principal twister is dragged out to a long-winded finale, so that the reader is ready for it to end at about 80 of the way through. However, it is a thought provoking and satisfying conclusion. Also, Moore gives us more with a tantalizing afterword.