In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers attempt to take his own life…and then walk a mile to a doctor’s house for help? Who was the crooked little “color man” Vincent had claimed was stalking him across France? And why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of blue?
These are just a few of the questions confronting Vincent’s friends–baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec–who vow to discover the truth about van Gogh’s untimely death. Their quest will lead them on a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late nineteenth-century Paris.
I will admit, I had some reservations about this book going into it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the last Moore book I read, Fool, and I’m not really a fan of art, so I wasn’t sure I even wanted to read this one. But then I read the above summary from the inside cover flap and figured I would give it a try. It gave me high hopes. They were dashed. I didn’t love it. It wasn’t terrible. But I’m having a hard time coming up with things I liked. First, let me complain:
The timeline was very difficult to follow. I had to keep skipping back to the beginning of the chapters, and to the previous chapters to figure out if what I was reading happened before or after the previous chapter. Eventually I gave up and tried to stop caring haha, but the timeline was pretty important in this story and I just couldn’t follow it. I also had trouble keeping track of which character was which. Maybe it was the French names (I really don’t like reading French things) but I didn’t even realize Henri and Toulouse-Lautrec were the same person at first. I either missed something which is definitely possible, or it wasn’t clear, which is also unfortunately possible. I did like Henri’s character a lot. He was probably my favorite. And I liked Lessard’s mother, too. I didn’t dislike Lessard, the main character, I just wasn’t terribly interested in him. Books don’t work very well when you can’t get at least a little emotionally invested in the main character. Oh well.
I think my overall problem with this story was it just didn’t read like a typical Moore book to me. Christopher Moore’s Lamb and Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings are some of my favorite books, that I read every time I need to relax or have a good laugh. This book was not like those. There was only one really funny line I wanted to quote here, but I didn’t have a place to write the page number down at the time, and I can’t remember it well enough now to go back and find it, so I guess it wasn’t amusing enough to stick with me. Essentially, this book wasn’t what I expected, and I was disappointed. Oh well. Next time I wanted to entertained by a Christopher Moore book I will just grab The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove off my shelf.