Now, if any of you are following me on Goodreads (What?You’re not? Well, go! I’ll wait here.), you may have noticed my love for Christopher Moore. If you’ve never read his books, I highly recommend them. I won’t lie and say that they’re, like, child appropriate… because they’re not. But they’re funny as all hell. Irreverent, sometimes sacrilegious (Here’s looking at you, Lamb.), and very well-written.
But today, I want to talk about another books entirely. The black sheep of the Christopher Moore family of books.
When this book came out, I was so fucking excited. Not only was it Christopher Moore, it was Impressionist Era France. Monet, Morisot, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet. I was hooked before I even read a single word. And, although we haven’t actually started the review yet, I’m going to spoil the ending – I love it. It’s not my favorite Moore book, but it’s right up there (It would take a lot to unseat Lamb from the top spot.).
Unfortunately, that’s not a popular opinion. Moore fans were sort of unhappy with the book, in general. And admittedly, it’s aa departure from his other books. It’s not just humor. It’s intellectualism. It’s historical fantasy. But it apparently missed the mark for a lot of his audience, which saddens me. This is a book I whip out for people to read all the time. And since I just finished it again and it’s fresh in my mind… I figured there wasn’t any better time to take a proper look at it. Maybe you’ll decide that you love it, too.
The Good: I can’t actually just say everything, as much as I’d like to. There’s a lot of good in this book. It’s got Moore’s normal wit, it’s all about art and painting and creating. That’s enough to sell me on it right there, but there’s also romance. There’s debauchery. There’s historical aspects to it. And there’s actual scans of famous Impressionist Era paintings. Not just the big ones, either, which is a nice change of pace.
But more than that, even, the historical bits work into the fantasy elements perfectly. It’s not easy to do even a few times, but he manages to seamlessly fit some pretty powerful magic (Time travel, immortality, that sort of thing) into the already strange world of art. Now, it’s more complex than all this, but the basis of the magic is that ultramarine blue, (The Sacrè Bleu of the title) can distort the flow of time. It’s used to explain a lot of the oddities you see with artists, but my favorite is probably with Claude Monet. When his first wife died, he painted her to capture the color blue she was turning. Yeah. That part’s not fictional. You can see the painting. Camille Monet on her deathbed.
But in the book, it’s a little less creepy, and more desperate. He uses the blue. He tries to stop her from dying by painting, tries to twist time with this magical blue paint so that she doesn’t have to die. And both in real life and in the book, painting that tore him up.
It’s that kind of attention to detail, digging out those things and putting them together, finding everything to do with blue in that era and that location. The amount of work and devotion is staggering by itself, but the fact that it works? That’s where the real magic comes from.
And, as much as I love ebooks, I have to say to get this one in print. It’s a piece of art in itself. All the text is blue, which tickles the shit out of me, and the pages are thick and ragged. To me, that heightens the experience of reading the book.
The Bad: There’s not much I can criticize in this book, but one thing does stand out, if I’m being nitpicky. If you’re looking for a super-intense book, this isn’t the one for you. It’s going to take its time, and there are going to be parts where you could be okay putting it down. It’s not a thrilling ride. It’s a meander through the Louvre, which is enjoyable in its own right.
The Ugly: I had a really hard time coming up with anything to put in the ugly category on this book. So this is a little bit of a stretch to call it ugly. There’s a little bit of a disconnect between the first and second halves. Really, it’s just about the marked difference between the plot before and after the midpoint, but it can feel a little inconsistent. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. There’s literally nothing ugly in this entire book, in spite of what some reviews might say. If you can find this book, grab it quickly and love on it. It won’t do you wrong.