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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • marsha
  • MILWAUKEE, WI, United States
  • 08-27-12

This book is exquisite

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Engrossing, entertaining, but weird

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Listened to in a single day! Once I got going!

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!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 06-23-13

Cimetière des Innocents

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.]

15 of 27 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Pure entertainment

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Indeed, any friend who enjoys some mystery and history mixed together will enjoy this novel.

What did you like best about this story?

The narrator is one of my favorites (Ralph Cosham, RIP). I think I would enjoy any novel read by him. The story itself is intriguing. A young at the cusp of the French Revolution has an opportunity to make a name for himself by ridding a old cemetery of its dead, many of which are already seeping in the water and air systems of the small town nearby. His project is not simple, of course, and he is young and headstrong. Nothing that happens to him is anything I would immediately expect.

Have you listened to any of Ralph Cosham’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes, I've listened all of Mr. Cosham's narrations for the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache series. He became Inspector Gamache for me. I miss him terribly.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, that would have been a pleasure, to have had a whole day in which to listen.

Any additional comments?

I highly recommend this novel. Both the story and the narrator made it a wonderful experience.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • T Cyr
  • Missoula, MT United States
  • 07-08-13

Could not get into it!

What disappointed you about Pure?

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.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good Historical Novel

I always enjoy anything to do with the 18th century. This book gave excellent detail about all aspects of life in Paris at that time. I t was definately dark in nature, but fitting to the subject matter. I was sad at the end, but the ending was symbollic and well done.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Pure

This book was beautifully written and very descriptive, but also very depressing. I’m not sure how this is part of the romance package.
Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer arrives in Paris in 1785, taking on the job of emptying the cemetery of Les Innocent. The stench is overpowering and is poisoning the air, food, and water.
Jean-Baptiste thinks he is going to bring new life to the city. He starts off pretty well, but soon realizes most people are not happy with him or the work he intends to do.
I didn’t enjoy this book very much. I realize it was based on an important part of history, but just didn’t expect a story labeled as being part of the romance package to be so depressing.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful