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Pure Paperback – May 29, 2012
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'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
'Murder, rape, seduction and madness impel this elegant novel ... Within this physical and political decay, Miller couches the heart of the matter: how to live one's life with personal integrity, with a purity not so much morally unblemished as unalloyed with the fads and opinions of society ... Miller populates Baratte's quest for equanimity with lush and tart characters, seductively fleshed out, who collectively help to deliver the bittersweet resolution of his professional and personal travails.' — James Urquhart, Independent
'Very atmospheric... Although the theme may sound macabre, Miller's eloquent novel overflows with vitality and colour. It is packed with personal and physical details that evoke 18th-century Paris with startling immediacy. Above all he brings off that difficult trick of making the reader care about an unsymapthetic character. If you enjoyed Patrick Suskind's Perfume, you'll love this.' — Daily Express
'It is an audacious novelist who can so knowingly prefigure the symbolism at the heart of his own work without threatening the success of the entire enterprise. It is fortunate, then, that Miller is a writer of subtlety and skill...Unlike many parables, however, PURE is neither laboured nor leaden. Miller writes like a poet, with a deceptive simplicity - his sentences and images are intense distillations, conjuring the fleeting details of existence with clarity. He is also a very humane writer, whose philosophy is tempered always with an understanding of the flaws and failings of ordinary people...Pure defies the ordinary conventions of storytelling, slipping dream-like between lucidity and a kind of abstracted elusiveness... As Miller proves with this dazzling novel, it is not certainty we need but courage' — Clare Clark, Guardian
'His recreation of pre-Revolutionary Paris is extraordinarily vivid and imaginative, and his story is so gripping that you'll put your life on hold to finish it. Expect this on the Booker longlist, at the very least' — The Times
'This is a tale about "the beauty and mystery of what is most ordinary"... Miller lingers up close on details: sour breath, decaying objects, pretty clothes, flames, smells, eyelashes... He is also alive to the dramatic possibilities offered by late-18th-century Paris, a fetid and intoxicating city on the brink of revolution... Miller intimately and pacily imagines how it might have felt to witness it.' — Daily Telegraph
'the book pulls off an ambitious project: to evoke a complex historical period through a tissue of deftly selected details.' — Sunday Times, Culture
'almost dreamlike, a realistic fantasy, a violent fairytale for adults' — Brian Lynch, Irish Times
'enthralling...superbly researched, brilliantly narrated and movingly resolved.' — Robert McCrum, The Observer
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Getting beneath the surface is exactly what Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer from Normandy hoping to make his fame and fortune in Paris, has been tasked to do for his first commission for the government, excavating the vast pits of the cemetery of les Innocents near les Halles market in the centre of the city, and taking down the church along with it. Bodies have been piled into the cemetery for centuries, and the king is concerned about the growing problem of filth and contamination that is emanating from one of the foulest areas in the city. It's a huge and deeply unpleasant task, but it's a necessary purification that needs to be carried out for the good of the city and the working population of the area. That's pretty much a subject of historical record, the bones excavated eventually ending up in the famous catacombs of Paris, and Andrew Miller's fictionalisation of the story follows the progress of the engineer and the relationships he develops with the workers he has employed, the family he boards with and the people he meets in the neighbourhood.
Although there is no shortage of incident in the story, it all arises fairly naturally out of the project to such an extent that it's easy to underestimate the skill with which the author depicts the simmering undercurrent of dissent and revolution that is simmering among the people and looking for an outlet.Read more ›
These are the historical facts underlying this novel, and Andrew Miller is steeped in the history of that time just before the French Revolution, when the ideas of the Enlightenment were challenging traditions. The clearing of the old cemetery becomes a symbol for the mood of disposing of the past. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, the young engineer who is put in charge of the work, is one of the "moderns"; so is his friend Lecoeur, who comes to do the work at the head of a team of thirty Flemings from the mines at Valenciennes where Baratte had himself once worked and with whom he had at that time spent many hours imagining an Enlightened utopia they called Valenciana. Symbolic, too, is the resistance (in one instance taking a very violent form) they encounter: many of the local have got used to the stench of decay and are opposed to the removal of familiar landmarks; others find this work of "purification" sacrilegious (though Armand de Saint-Méard, the organist of the barely visited church and another "modern", welcomes the change in the full knowledge that he will lose his position - anticipating those clergy who would take part in the early stages of the French Revolution).Read more ›
Despite the unusual and unsavory subject matter, Miller recreates the human side of the story - to make the reader empathize with Baratte, to see how important the job is to him, to show how he longs for acceptance - and even a job as unsavory this one quickly involves the reader in the story and its historical setting. Details about Paris in this pre-revolutionary time stick in the reader's memory: an elephant, somewhere in Versailles, that exists on Burgundy wine; a revolutionary group devoted to the future, that plasters warnings about the church and aristocracy on walls and buildings; the nearly hopeless lives of the miners Baratte recruits to work on this horrific job; and later, their differences in outlook from the masons he hires for additional on-site work.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very descriptive as to scenery and ambiance but hard to grasp the characters themselves.Published 2 months ago by George B. Upton
One of my favorite books I've read- and I read a ton! For some reason, doesn't seem to be highly reviewed, but it is a hidden gem.Published 6 months ago by Melissa
What was not initially perceive as interesting, became a fascinating read with a satisfying conclusion. Time well spent. Wish it could last another 500 pages.Published 6 months ago by SRS
Could not put it down! Passed it on to a friend who now can't stop reading it. Beautifully written. Other Amazon reviewers go into detailed descriptions of the story. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mrs S
I found this a very unusual novel, gently developing with characters I cared about which was refreshing. Read morePublished 9 months ago by wandering woman
In fairness half the book club thought this was a great read about an unusual piece of history, the rest were put off by the writing.Published 9 months ago by E. Frazer