Publisher: William Morrow, April 2012
Genre: Fiction, Historial Humorous Fiction (a new genre!?)
Where I Got It: Amazon Vine
Why I Read It: You know I just love Christopher Moore (most of the time)
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Set primarily in Montmartre, Paris in the 1890s, this is a book about artists, muses and the color blue. Of course, being written by Christopher Moore, you can expect everything to be skewed to the absurd, a bit bawdy, irreverent and playful. Moore inhabits his book with figures real (Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet and Renoir) and unreal (Bleu—a body-jumping muse, the Colorman—a gnome who can create the otherwordly shade of blue known as Scare Bleu, and Lucien Lessard, a baker/painter who is obsessed with Juliette).
While reading, I was always curious about what was real and what wasn’t. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book for me was Moore’s Afterword (“So, Now You’ve Ruined Art), which provided a breakdown of what was based on fact and what wasn’t. Surprisingly, quite a bit of “realness” snuck into a book that is quite fanciful and absurd. It was interesting to learn that Monet really did paint his wife Camille on her deathbed, the puzzling circumstances of Vincent Van Gogh’s death, and the ungodly amount of artists who died of syphilis. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed were the images of the real paintings that are discussed and play a role in the book. I thought it was an ingenious way to make art history come alive in a way that would even seem palatable to … say … teenage boys.
However, I just didn’t fall in love with the book (despite my deep and abiding adoration of several of Moore’s other books). Part of it was the goofy sophomoric humor that runs throughout the book a la Fool (I guess boobie and penis jokes just don’t do it for me) and the other part was the fractured nature of the tale that just didn’t draw me in. The real problem, perhaps, is that I just didn’t care about any of the characters too much so I never got all that invested in the book or what was happening. Still, if you’re a fan of Moore, it is worth checking out even if it fell a bit flat and wasn’t his best work. Or if you are an art history buff/major, you might enjoy this romp through a very exciting time in art history.
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