Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars
Perhaps not everyone will be regaled by the rough misogyny and the superfluity of raunchy humor that's so pervasive in Christopher Moore's Sacré Bleu. The book does offer other compensations however.
For one, the setting is enthralling - late Nineteenth Century Paris set afire with the artistic talents of the Impressionist Painters. The major painters of the day all make at the very least a cameo appearance in the novel, and sometimes much more than a cameo. The book itself is an alluring mélange of historical fact and surreal fiction. Of the two major protagonists in the book, one is Henri Toulouse-Lautrec - the French aristocrat-artist - who zestfully immersed himself in Paris's sexy underbelly. The other is Lucien Lessard, Moore's fictitious baker turned painter. Together, the pair try to unravel the mystery of the apparent suicide of their friend, Vincent van Gogh. The clues lead them on the trail of the sinister 'Colorman', and his elusive companion.
One of the charms of this book for me was the many photos of the great artwork under discussion. That; and the author's intellectual athleticism. I enjoyed his effortless vaults from art history to Greek and Gaelic mythology; and all the better when he takes the reader along for the ride instead of floundering at the sidelines.
And while the bitch-goddess persona exercises a certain fascination on the imagination, in this context it's also a nod to that very French dictum - cherchéz la femme.