Karen M. (Great Falls, VA)
Very good storyteller
I have always wanted to read a Christopher Moore book. His reviews are nearly always positive. His work is considered witty, humorous and a bit of a satire. I thought we might have a current day Oscar Wilde on our hands. So, it was with great enthusiasm I asked for an ARC from Bookbrowse in order to read his latest "masterpiece" (says the book jacket), Sacré Bleu.
Christopher Moore can tell a great story. One that you don't want to put down. He can write funny dialogue; in this case, the banter between Henri Toulous-Lautrec and Lucien Lessard is first-rate. The central conceit of the book surrounds a supernatural phenomenon that is causing all the painters of the time -- van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Pissaro and Cezanne to paint their finest work using the color
"sacré bleu." This color comes from a mysterious Colorman and an equally curious but enchanting woman who poses for these artists. These men feverishly create masterworks during months of infatuation with their models accompanied by loss of time, no memory of painting these works, and unbelievable sex. The Roman Catholic Church wants this particular shade of blue to be used exclusively for the painting of the Virgin Mary's clothes. Thus the name, translated from French, as "the sacred blue." Obviously, it's inspiring other unforgettable and racy uses for the painters of Paris who feel compelled to use it.
Of course, Moore can't ignore the joke in the title, for "sacré bleu" is considered a curse or more importantly, a profanity, in french. Loosely translated, it is the exclamation "My God." Wikipedia will tell you it's rarely used in French-speaking countries, but the word was taught to me in my high school French III class in 1970's America. Profanity is a surprise player in this book. I am caught up in the story, and then one of the characters says "shag," or "bugger,"not terms found in late 18th century France, and it derails me. It takes me out of the experience and lands me right back in the present day. Why would Moore do it? It felt as if he is an adolescent saying naughty words just to shock and/or mess with the readers' heads. Perhaps he doesn't want you to take the subject matter and the characters too seriously. I suppose if you love movies or TV shows where there is a lot of burping and farting, then it's funny. But I wonder why would he insert English cuss words into the great French painters' mouths? Maybe I missed the memo that told me that these words are considered funny outside of England.
With the above caveat, I would recommend this book to anyone who would love to read a mystery with a supernatural twist set in the late 1800s in Paris. There is even a bit of time travel, always a plus. Famous artists are creating very recognizable works of art and Moore puts you in the room with the painters. We find out about the masters' sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, and wives. I have read several books about this time of tremendous creativity combined with perhaps a little debauchery a la Moulin Rouge, and I found Moore's twisted fantasy to still be informative and fun. It's clear that Moore did his research and shares his knowledge in a delightful and engrossing narrative. I finished it in a day, and I intend to immediately check out all of Moore's other work. If the subject matter is of interest, I'll buy and read the book. And now that I know his characters may have a case of Tourette's Syndrome, I'm prepared.
Linda M. (Three Oaks, MI)
I have read all of Christopher Moore’s books. They are generally irreverent, full of wit and fairly absurd in the best of ways. That being said, Sacre Blue didn’t too much deviate from the norm. For me, it started very slow, to the point that I had to force my way through the first fifty or so pages. It eventually picked up the pace; however, the outlandish take on the artist and his inspiration through the ages didn’t inspire me as much as Moore’s previous works. There were elements I really enjoyed such as the way he incorporated actual historical painters and their works into the storyline bringing art to life blending truth with fiction. Toulouse-Lautrec, in a supporting role and the 1800’s equivalent of a party animal, was my favorite character. He did make me laugh. It was the mystery that drew me in this book rather than the comedy and it wasn’t enough to keep me from being fully entertained.
Lisa E. (Cincinnati, OH)
Typical Chris Moore, but Confusing
I love Chris Moore--A Dirty Job is one of my favorite books. This story creates a wonderful character from the painter Toulouse-Lautrec and presents a fun and engaging depiction of the French Impressionists. The central mystery of the novel, however, the source of the sacre bleu paint of the title, is confusing and not entirely compelling. Still, a fun page-turner.
Ann D. (CLEARFIELD, PA)
Christopher Moore weaves an irreverant tale of mystery surrounding the Paris art scene of the late 1800's. In Sacre Bleu, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, when sober and upright, joins his young, aspiring artist/bread-baker friend, Lucien Lessard, in an attempt to discover the truth about The Colorman and his body-hopping muse, Julliette.
The story is riddled with attempts at humor. I actually laughed out loud a few times, but alas, too few. Too often, they produced only groans.
Moore includes many famous artists and samples their work as part of the story line. That part worked well.
I was not familiar with Chrisopher Moore's previous novels. Knowing what I know now, I would not have chosen this book to review.
Aleta S. (Bainbridge Island, WA)
Murder, passion, mystery, humor, history, beauty, and magic: something for everyone, but too much for some. Profanity, addiction, fornication and other debaucheries abound (but so do reproductions of great masterpieces). The outrageous bits have the benefit of good context, aren’t gratuitous and are usually funny, if not hilarious.
Sacré Bleu was my very ADULT forklift out of a funk. Although reality meets impossibility along the way, turning the last page leaves little doubt that wanting more Christopher Moore is no fiction.
Rosemary K. (Saginaw, MI)
Sacre Bleu indeed!
Christopher Moore's Sacre Bleu is one of the most dreadful books I've ever struggled through. I can appreciate the author's premise--barely, but the way the plot unfolded was tedious. None of the characters were appealing. I suppose the author was shooting for humor, but he certainly struck me with his decided lack of depth.
Kristen K. (Atlanta, Georgia)
A Fun Engaging Novel
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore was very enjoyable to read. I have some familiarity with the artists who populate this fictional tale and I think he did a great job of bringing them to life as characters in this amusing mystery. The setting is Paris in the late 1800s during the heyday of the Impressionists. Readers will recognize many of the paintings and locations that figure in the story and the book has black and white illustrations to help. I found the mystery of the “Colorman” the weakest part of the book but Moore ties it all together and it did keep me entertained.