Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore

Grade 6 sucked for me.  We had just moved; I was going to a third school in as many years; and my dad was working a lot (thanks, army-brat upbringing!).  The only thing that made 1996 bearable for me (in retrospect) was Mme Lesperance and her love of art.  Once a week, for 2 periods, our Grade 5/6 split class would learn about art in a way that would probably be more common in university – there was equal part theory and practice, and it wasn’t arts and crafts.  Rather, we were learning about the big-name masters and the Impressionists.  With Mme Lesperance’s guidance, we learnt about colour theory, composition, and history in a way that I had almost forgotten until reading Christopher Moore’s new book Sacré Blue.

Sacré Blue has been the eagerly awaited new work by Moore that was (finally!) released this month.  Telling the tale of the Impressionist painters in 1880/90s Paris, Sacré Blue is classing Moore in that it is funny, clever, and horribly well thought out.  The style is quintessentially Moore, but only after the first 100 pages or so.  Not to say that fan wouldn’t be able to point this work out of a line-up quickly, but the first third of the book is lacking what comes in the rest, and that is an in-you-face sarcasm.  I think I might be able to chalk that up to trying to wrap my head around the unique story Moore was constructing, and I’m looking forward to re-reading Sacré Blue with a better understanding of all the warps in the weave.

The plot to this book centres around the colour blue (well, duh).  Moore sprinkles many fun-facts about the place blue has held in Western art for the last dozen centuries or so throughout his tale, but things really pick-up with the death of Vincent van Gogh.  While van Gogh’s death is the starting and end points of the tale, it’s not the middle.  Rather, we follow Lucien Lessard’s quest to paint his love, Juliette, who mysteriously disappeared several years ago, and has just as mysteriously reappeared.  Along with Juliette’s return to Paris is the appearance of the Colorman, an odd little creature who appears to multiple artists around the time of their great creations.  The pay-off to the novel is learning who the Colorman and Juliette really are, the history behind the great Impressionist works, and a resolution to the burning question- whatever did happen to that piece of van Gogh’s ear?

On to characters!  Moore’s main male character, Lucien Lessard, is quintessential Moore; he’s the everyman’s Bata-male, just trying to get some.  And he’s roguishly lovable for it.  Lessard is fictional, but many of the other characters are based in reality, and men like Monet, van Gogh, Pissaro, Degas, Renoir and Manet all come in and out of the tale like good friends during a late night at your favorite cabaret.  But central to these secondary characters if Toulouse-Lautrec, who helps Lessard in his quest for love and answers.  The C-range of characters are another telling skill of Moore’s, and that is his inability to write an un-lovable character, no mater how small the role.  Case in point is Maman Lessard, who is a minor component in plot development, but a major piece of the light-hearted and lovable humour of this work.

A quick word on the book itself.  From cover to cover, there is nothing usual about this work.  On the front is only a half-dust jacket, which is strategically placed (and glued into place) to hide the non-naughty naughty-bits of the lady on the cover.  It looks odd, but it stands out.  Inside is even odder, as it contains full-colour pictures of multiple works of art.  But the oddest use of colour, the one I didn’t fully pick up on until page 2 or 3, was that the text is all blue.  When you first notice it, it’s all you notice – but slowly your eyes adjust and it looks like normal black text, until for some reason your mind snaps-to and you recognize it as being blue for a page or two, until you forget and it once again looks like black text.  Leave it to Moore to add such a layer to an already complex work; it was a cheeky decision, but then, so was writing an entire novel about a colour.

In reading this book, I was infinitely grateful to Mme Lesperance for her passion for art, since it gave me the ability to fully appreciate this book as I would an Impressionist painting; as Mme Lesperance taught, you have to take in the picture as a whole, then get up-close to observe the nuances, then step back and take it in as a whole again.  And that’s what reading a Chris Moore book is like – they all benefit from re-readings because the humour never goes stale.

The only complaint I have about this work is that it took so long to finish and publish, and it took me a day to read.  Moore needs to do his fans a favour and write more!  This work is a wonderful addition to the Moore cannon, and should be read with the same frequency as his other works (which, in my case, is almost yearly).  Do yourself a favour and, if you’ve never read a book by Moore, go out and do so.  And, if you are familiar with Moore, go out and buy this book!  It’s an amazing story, a fun read, and you’re going to want to re-experience it in the future!  


  1. What a great review! I can't wait to receiev my copy in the mail, and to get it signed by Mr.Moore himself in Toronto on Saturday!! =)

  2. *receive (sorry, had to correct that, it would have drove me INSANE lol)

  3. Think about what you will be storing on the bookcase so you can determine how many shelves you need...