The moment he catches a glimpse of that familiar silhouette, Lucien Lessard’s world begins to change. After a two-year sabbatical from their relationship, his beloved lady, Juliette, has unexpectedly returned to Paris. With dark tresses and the fairest skin, Juliette inspires Lucien in both work and play, but is she really what she seems?

With equal parts humor and mystery, Christopher Moore’s Sacre Bleu brings to life the French Impressionist art movement in late 19th-century Paris, exposing the painters’ colorful personalities through Lucien, a baker-turned-artist who interacts with various real-life artists of the movement—including Monet, van Gogh and Pissarro. To judge by the adventures of Lucien and his closest friend, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, it seem that the artist’s life away from the canvas usually involves booze and brothels.

Lucien’s career path is not only motivated by his late father’s love of painting, but also the mysterious Juliette. After Juliette’s countless requests, he ignores his misgivings and agrees to paint her nude figure using a special aquamarine color. This “Sacred Blue” is only provided by an odd little man known as The Colorman—who just might be connected to the unexplained death of Lucien’s friend Vincent van Gogh. The result of his capitulation results in an unpredictable tale that is woven around shorter chapters about other French Impressionists and the history of the Sacred Blue, a color that, like Juliette, has hidden depths.

While Moore’s satire of the Parisian art world is entertaining and whimsical, this is not a laugh-out-loud novel. Much like his novel Lamb, he combines historical research with an intelligent sense of humor, resulting in amusement rather than gut-busting laughter. An imaginative trip through Paris filled with comedy, death, love and mystery, Sacre Bleu has something for everyone.

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