By 1785, deep in the heart of Paris, the city's oldest cemetery is overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it. At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.
©2011 Andrew Miller (P)2012 Dreamscape Media, LLC
"One of the most brilliant aspects of Miller's writing is his ability to question unobtrusively, through style alone, sentimentality about both life under the Bourbons and the creative destruction of revolution...he has an instinctive knack for casting bright similes, never overextended, that ripple suggestively...The writing throughout is crystalline, uncontrived, striking and intelligent. You could call it pure." (Jonathan Beckman, Literary Review)
Every so often a historical novel comes along that is so natural, so far from pastiche, so modern, that it thrills and expands the mind. Pure is one...Miller's newly minted sentences are arresting, often unsettling and always thought-provoking. Exquisite inside and out, Pure is a near-faultless thing: detailed, symbolic and richly evocative of a time, place and man in dangerous flux. It is brilliance distilled, with very few impurities." (Holly Kyte, Telegraph)
"Quietly powerful, consistently surprising, Pure is a fine addition to substantial body of work...pre-revolutionary Paris is evoked in pungent detail...By concentrating on the bit players and byways of history, Miller conjures up an eerily tangible vanished world." (Suzi Feay, Financial Times)
I enjoyed this book for many reasons. It is beautifully written,a good story, and a vivid description of Paris at the time. I liked the people who inhabit the book, they are good and decent people.
One would think that any novel you start and finish in a single day would prove to be one that you would reccomend to others, and one would be quite correct in thinking so!
This novel, once I got into the characters and situations was simply not one I could bear to wait to finish... What would seem, at first, a somewhat macabre novel, proves in the end to expose more kindness and sympathy despite the death around its characters than I could have first anticipated...
As someone with an interest in historical novels, it is also an interesting take on 'pre-revolutionary' France, and is remarkably insightful should I ever get the priveledge to actually visit Paris, and its catacombs...
Not without sadness and tragety, it yet contains a tenderness which is uncovered that seems the more real and miraculous in spite of itsself...
Overall, an excelent read! Romantic in its way, fascinating, and compassionate, it is an excelent break from the sappy traditional victorian anxt, while keeping that historic and period correct edge!
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
The Catacombs of Paris, near Montparnasse, are a tourist attraction. l'Ossuaire Municipal, a section of the Catacombs, contains the bones of more than 6,000,000 people disinterred from Paris' cemeteries, starting with the Cemetery of the Innocents in 1786. I've been through the ossuary, and was both fascinated by the careful, respectful arrangement; and horrified - it was if bones of all the Jews killed by the Nazis were in one place.
I never once thought of the people that closed the cemeteries and removed the bones to the Catacombs. Andrew Miller's "Pure" (2011) is the fictional account of a provincial engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, commissioned by the Court of Louis XVI, to design and oversee the removal of 6 centuries of bodies. Les Innocents was dangerously overused and the corpses were polluting the neighborhood air and Paris' drinking water.
Baratte lets a room from a family whose home overlooks the cemetery. He becomes both a loved and hated part of the community. The descriptions of 18th century life, fashions, work, and death are fascinating. The story and the plot are compelling.
The novel is written in the present tense, and I was not comfortable with that. After thinking it over, I realized that that is because "Pure" is a historical novel. Present tense works for me in sci-fi/dystopian writing, such as Suzanne Collins "Hunger Games" trilogy (2008-2010). The use of present tense in "Pure" seemed to me to be an artificial way of making Miller's historical imaginings more credible.
Ralph Cosham's narration was a little distracting. I know enough French to realize his French pronunciation is flawless, but the English was narrated with a French accent. That's another technique I don't particularly like. I don't need to be reminded "Pure" is set in France. I like the approach taken by Peter Francis James narrating Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (1959). When James narrates the names and parts in Ibo, he pronounces them in Ibo; but he does not use an Ibo accent to narrate English.
[My apologies to those who adore the present tense wholeheartedly, and if you found this review helpful, please let me know by pressing the helpful button.]
I am really glad I listened to this book. At first, I thought the author wrote it strictly from his head. But in the epilogue, I discovered it was a fictionalized real event. That made it even more meaningful to me. So, it is historical fiction (late 18th century), a love story, a bit of mystery. The main character, John-Baptiste, an engineer, was given the job of demolishing a very old cemetery in Paris. He designed the process and supervised the project. While Parisians weren't very happy about what happened to their families who were buried there, I couldn't help but think about the contrast with the kind of conflict a similar project caused in my city. Watching John-Baptiste grow and change made me feel quite close to him. Other characters weren't developed as much as his.
Supernatural eeriness was not part of this story. However, the weirdness of digging up thousands of bodies, (often no coffins or very flimsy ones) was enough.
This was a good story, a bit on the weird side, that was satisfying and provided a good look at 18th century Paris.
The reader seems to lack enthusiasm in reading and does not seem very interested in the story he is trying to relate. Same tone with same rhythm. Very uninteresting story. Gave it a 2 hour try and could not get into it.
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