I’m a big fan of Moore, and I’ve caught up on all his books now, so it’s a big event when a new one is released. The day Sacre Bleu came out, I ran over to the book store to pick up a copy and was pleasantly surprised to see how cool the first edition hardcover was. They even had signed copies. If you judge a book by its cover, and don’t lie you do, this one gets top marks – beautifully illustrated cover, thick pages with uneven rough edges, very readable blue font, and coloured in-text prints of the artwork in the story. It makes you want to rub your face all over it.
And I did.
It’s the end of the 19th century, and Vincent van Gogh has just died in Auvers-sur-Oise from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Everyone assumes suicide, but two of his friends in Paris, painters themselves, find the circumstances surrounding his death a little too strange to ignore. They begin investigating and find there was indeed something odd in his passing, that the mystery extends to other painters, and that it has to do with the colour blue.
This novel is part mystery, part comedy, part fantasy, and part love letter to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, many of whom are involved in the story. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the main characters in this, which is fun as he’s one of the few painters whose personal life I knew anything about, apart from van Gogh and the whole ear thing.
“I like a girl with a substantial bottom,” said Renoir, drawing in the air the size bottom he preferred.
Having the paintings included in-text, and not in an appendix, was a great addition to the book, especially for those like me who may be lacking in the art history department somewhat. It’s interesting to be exposed to the art as you make your way through the story. I love wandering art galleries when I travel, and I’ve seen a lot of great art that would have been better appreciated had I done some studying beforehand, so I really enjoyed the little insights throughout this. He listed a few books at the end for further reading that I think I’d like to pick up.
I enjoyed this a lot. Maybe not as much as a few of his other books, but it held my interest and kept me grinning the whole way through. I even laughed aloud once or twice. He has a very natural way of making a novel seem grounded before gradually weaving in more mystical elements. I went on about the history a bit, and he clearly did an awful lot of research for this, but he didn’t let it get in the way of the story. He uses his four years of research to compliment the story he’s trying to tell, whereas some authors might be tempted to tell a story that shows off how much research they had done.
You can get a taste of the research he did in his chapter guide. It goes through the art and history mentioned in each chapter with accompanying photos from his time in France, and it apparently has a free iPhone app as well. I’m eager to read through this over the next few days.