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Pure by Andrew Miller

Pure (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Andrew Miller

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8265410,967 (3.63)159
Authors:Andrew Miller
Info:Europa Editions (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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Pure by Andrew Miller (2011)

Recently added byPezski, strange_analyst, private library, SarahHeylen, cadolph, Catelam, jorre, JessicaDkS
  1. 10
    The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris (clfisha)
    clfisha: Anyone interested in the creation of Paris Catacombs and in charnel houses/ossuaries in general this is a great non-fiction coffee table book.

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I can't deny the skill that went into writing this - it's 18th century France to its core (and I've no idea why I'm so sure since I obviously didn't live in 18th century France, but there was a strong sense of authenticity about it), but I didn't find it an enjoyable read. An engineer is engaged to excavate a putrefying graveyard. He does it. If you're interested in how such a task might be completed this book is for you. But I was looking for a compelling plot and I didn't find one. Of the shopping list of dramatic events listed on the back page little is heard until close to the end when several of them happen at once, taking up relatively little time, and normal grave-excavation service is promptly resumed.

The most intriguing character in the book was perhaps Ziguette, but she promptly disappears never to be seen again. And what exactly was the attraction between the protagonist and Heloise which apparently springs from nowhere. Big questions weren't answered, or at least not in a way I could understand. Books like this often make me feel as though I am missing something: some allegory or some hint I have failed to pick up on. The mummified bodies for example - were we supposed to know who they were, or what connection they had to the other characters? It went over my head if so. I had previously read and not enjoyed a book by this author, and this went much the same way. It's very strong writing, but in the way that magnets can be strong, and yet still repel each other. ( )
  jayne_charles | Feb 9, 2017 |
Imagery very good, an olfactory story, a bit like Perfume:The story of a Murder. An enjoyable read. ( )
  Cat-Lib | Jul 3, 2016 |
This is a beautifully written book and definitely immerses you in the time period. It is not plot-driven, to be sure, but that hardly matters because Miller has such a way with the language and makes his characters so real. ( )
  Caitlin70433 | Jun 6, 2016 |
The stink of the Innocents is permeating the soil, the water, and the air of Paris. The rotting remains of the overstuffed cemetery of les Innocents are leaching into the food and even the very skin and breath of the living inhabitants of the surrounding city. The vast yard of bones and soupy remains is eroding into their cellars. So the King's minister has hired on an engineer from Normandy to put together a crew that will dig up and relocate the corpses to the Catacombs, then destroy the cemetery and the church.
This is a sumptuous and evocative story of late 18th century Paris. It is as if Andrew Miller himself just came back from 1785 and is eagerly regaling us with all that he saw. We are jostled by the crowds in the streets and the rough labourers in the cemetery, we smell the fetid air, we feel the grit beneath our feet and between our fingers, we peer into the dim candle-lit shadows of hovels, church recesses, and charnel houses.

Eeeeww factoid: Scientific American provided a fascinating article on the history of this cemetery. The cemetery was so crowded that not enough oxygen was available for decomposition, so mounds of fat resulted. This human fat was turned into soaps and candles.
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anecdotes-from-the-archive/2011/04/15/you-po... ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
What was I thinking when I put this book on my wish list? I guess it was that I liked Miller's writing in "Oxygen" and wanted to try out more of his work. However, I invoked the Nancy Pearl rule and terminated my reading of this book. It was kind-of interesting, in an historical sort of way, but was just too much removed from my own experience to make it worth reading - at my advanced age, with not too many books worth of reading time left. If I were a 20 year old, it would probably be worth reading for "my own education". I'm beyond education now. ( )
  oldblack | Apr 19, 2016 |
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Flowers bloom again in the disinterred cemetery. Sunlight illuminates the darkness through the broken roof of the church. Though progress brings suffering and death, the balance, as Baratte knows, "will still be in your favour". As Miller proves with this dazzling novel, it is not certainty we need but courage, now as much as ever, before we too are reduced to bones.
added by riverwillow | editThe Guardian, Clare Clark (Jun 24, 2011)
Purifying centuries of decaying mortality and removing the miasma that permeates the dwellings, skin and even food of the area is neither simple nor necessarily popular. Miller threads into this fabric subtle ideas about modernity, glancing at Voltaire, public health and the seditious graffiti that anticipate the revolutionary fervour of 1789 - just four years away.
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The time will come when the sun will shine only on free men who have no master but their reason. Marquis de Condorcet
In memory of my father, Dr Keith Miller, and of my friends, Patrick Warren and George Lachlan Brown.
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A young man, young but not very young, sits in an anteroom somewhere, some wing or other, in the Palace of Versailles.
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Haiku summary
How do you remove
A cemetery in Paris?
Bone by bone, it seems.

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Engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte is tasked with emptying an overflowing cemetery in Paris in 1785, work he considers noble until he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery parallels his own fate and the demise of social order.

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