Pure
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Pure

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  4,053 ratings  ·  690 reviews
Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, 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 b...more
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Sceptre (first published 2011)
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Elaine
I ended up feeling a bit let down by Pure. Miller is a luscious writer -- never a word wrong as he sketches a 1785 Paris that is about to boil over (but hasn't yet). He achieves a masterful balance between enough historical detail so that you can see, taste, and (unfortunately) smell the book's setting without ever seeming didactic or overly lecturing (ahem, Amitav Ghosh -- who I read simultaneously with this). Indeed, the prose is so graceful that the whole book has a sensuous feel despite the...more
TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
Pure, Andrew Miller’s sixth novel, takes place in 1785, in Paris, as Normandy engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte is summoned to the Palace of Versailles. There, Baratte, who is a graduate of the Ecole Royale des Ponts et Chaussées, is commissioned by the State to demolish the ancient cemetery beneath the church of “Les Innocents” in central Paris, and dispose of the thousands of bodies buried there.

The cemetery is far too close to the famous markets of Les Halles. The many bodies, whose fat refuses...more
Mark
Feb 14, 2013 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone with a taste for skulls
Recommended to Mark by: Poole bookclub God bless 'em
But what is the significance of the elephant; I don't understand about the elephant.

At one point, one of the characters says 'That is a metaphor', another responds 'A metaphor? Where did you go to school ?'

And the first speaker answers 'Nogent-le-Rotrou'.

This little dialogue sums up part of my difficulties with this book. Firstly Andrew Miller absolutely crams this novel to the brim with metaphor. Secondly some of the dialogue seems too anachronistic and thirdly , and this is obviously my probl...more
Cheryl
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 cemet...more
Siobhan
What a disappointment! Miller could have done so much more with this concept (the destruction of Les Innocents in Paris). Unfortunately, the novel is too short; atrocious under development of character, a lack of any cultivated plot and a dismal amount of the ins and outs of the mechanics of such a project (demolition of a church, exhumation of thousands of corpses etc) left me thinking there really wasn't much depth to the novel.

There is much potential in this novel, Miller's use of a wide rang...more
Chrissie
I finished the audiobook version, narrated by Jonathan Aris, two days ago. I had to in fact listen to the ending three times; the details were confusing - which kind of annoyed me! I do think I understand the message that was being imparted by the final scene. Anyway, what I most enjoyed about this book was its imagery. You feel as though you are in Paris. The Parisians are acting like Parisians. You perceive the streets, the sounds and sights and smells. Well, not really the smells, because the...more
Susan
It was the subject matter that attracted me to this book, as it seemed so unusual, based on an actual event, the clearing of Les Innocents graveyard in Paris which had become what we would refer to nowadays as a health hazard.
This gruesome task is undertaken by a young engineer who is commissioned to complete the task in a year.
What follows is the dark but compelling story of how this work was done, and it's effects on those involved.

There are many unusual and interesting characters, suicide, ra...more
Anne
I enjoyed this book, but was left a little unsatisfied. I love the way Miller writes, and this is a soft touch on the pre-revolutionary Paris, only tangentially touching on the politics - I wanted it to be more grisly and gruesome, considering Baratte is tasked with moving the contents of the cemetery of les Innocents, which at the time was overflowing into people's cellars. I wanted more politics and more of an insight into the perspectives at Versailles and those of the common people. I wanted...more
Orsolya
Even though the number of historical fiction books rendering the time of the French Revolution appears endless; Andrew Miller takes a different approach in “Pure”. Following Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer contracted to “get rid of” Les Innocents (a cemetery), the novel is rich with symbolism not necessarily found in all Revolutionary novels.

As one can probably deduce from the mere summary above; “Pure” is not a typical historical fiction narrative. Rather, Miller’s novel is a canopy of symb...more
Jane
I certainly appreciated the exquisite writing; every word and image was chosen with care and perfection, like a necklace of perfect pearls, with each of the incidents and characters representing a pearl on that necklace. I observed this through the whole novel, but by somewhere in Part III everything began to fall apart. It felt like the author had made his point and was just filling in events, to rush to a finish. The book ended in a mirror image of its beginning. The book made me uneasy and t...more
Terri
Pure. What a not so sweet smelling little charmer you are. A real treasure that I am pleased to have finally read after a couple years of some less than graceful evasive manoeuvres. It has played a good game this Pure. Putting itself under my nose at every turn. Gawping at me from the shelf at my library as I reach for a different book. On a friends currently reading pile. In recommended reading lists. Flashing your fine cover in blue or in green. You know I love that cover. Have told you over...more
Maya Panika
A brilliantly written fiction, set against the removal of Les Innocents cemetery in Paris in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution.

When the story begins, Jean-Baptiste Baratte is a rather staid young man. Freshly arrived from his Normandy home and ambitious to advance his engineering career, he is given the job of clearing Les Innocents cemetery, a place literally over-flowing with the dead, fouling the food, tainting the breath of those who share its air.

It's a surprisingly comp...more
James Rye
I really enjoyed this book. The author created a vulnerable protagonist who succeeds against the opposition and distractions. I found the relentless progress through careful and difficult work inspiring. The engineer grows through the pages and the quality of writing and detailed observation of his inner struggle endeared him to me. Many of us scratch fearfully at closed doors. I was reminded of Camus, both in theme of freedom through action and love, and through the use of extended allegory.
Pippa
I had such high hopes for this book having read the reviews, seen the press coverage and of course the fact that it won the Costa book of year award. Unfortunately I was left sorely dissapointed. The novel just never seemed to progress or have any real spark about it. I finished the book feeling that the plot was highly simplistic and the events that punctuated the story never developed. The charecters were flat and I kept reading waiting for something to happen and for the story to get going; w...more
Patricia Bracewell
Surely one of the goals of a writer of historical fiction is to bring the past to life for the reader, to immerse him or her in the images, scents, tastes, beliefs and inhabitants of another time. Miller does an excellent job of this. Whenever I picked up the book and started reading I was immediately pulled into 18th century Paris, particularly the streets around the Cemetery of Les Innocents and the decay emanating from rotting bodies buried there. There isn't much that is pretty in this book,...more
JJ Marsh
I wouldn’t have chosen this from the shelf. The premise is not something I thought I’d enjoy and I don’t often seek out historical fiction. But a friend passed it on, saying how much she’d loved it. It won the 2011 Costa Novel Award. So I gave it a try. The cover says ‘Dazzling’, Irresistibly compelling’, ‘Gripping’ and ‘Superb’. And it is.

It also beautifully written. Jean-Baptiste Baratte is summoned from the quiet town of Bellême to Paris, to complete a rather unusual task. He is to clear the...more
Aubrey
I enjoy books like this one, ones that focus not on shoving obstacles and enemies into the path of the plot, but instead work to give the main character friendship, fortune, and even love despite their misfortunes. There's just something satisfying in seeing characters work effectively with one another, together dealing with all that life throws at them. In other words, I'm a fan of authors who don't make all their characters insufferable prats just because they can. It's easy to get weary of th...more
ParasolPirate
Perhaps a little too 'literary' for my tastes, I didn't ever feel truly engaged throughout my entire reading of Pure.

I didn't feel that the reader was given enough of a chance to get to know the characters, and the Heloise was the only one I felt was given enough back story to really have true motivations which allowed my to understand her actions. The other personalities seem to just have things happen to them, and do things just because it will serve some purpose to move the plot along, rathe...more
Tracy
Set in the years just preceding the French Revolution. Pure is a story about a young Engineer Jean –Baptiste given the unenviable task of clearing the overrun, collapsing and foul smelling cemetery of l'Innocents and demolishing the adjacent church. This clearance is an historical fact with the bones being stored in the Catacombs of Paris.
This is not just an historical account of the cemetery clearing; it also alludes to the underlying of chaos and decay of the traditional way of life and the ne...more
Tony
PURE. (2011). Andrew Miller. *****.
This is the first novel by this author that I have read – but certainly not the last. This particular book won the prestigious Costa Award for Best Novel in 2011 – beating out a serious host of contenders. It is an historical novel set in the turbulent days of the late 18th century in France. A young, recently graduated engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, is given a strange assignment: he is to drain and excavate the huge gravesite in the center of Paris known as...more
Rob
1785, and the French state is rotten, putrefying. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young engineer, is summoned to a decaying Versailles to be given a task by a government minister, the clearance of the cemetery of les Innocents by Les Halles in Paris, which is full to overflowing and filling its surrounds with stench and disease. Apparently there is an elephant somewhere in Versailles.

The elephant is the impending French Revolution, whose presence looms over this book whilst only ever being acknowledged...more
Guy Portman
Paris’s oldest cemetery, Les Innocents, is overflowing, the city’s deceased having been piled in there for years, resulting in the surrounding area having been permanently permeated by a fetid aroma. The site is a growing concern to the authorities and a potential hazard to the health of the local population.

The prospect of salvation comes with the arrival of a young, energetic, provincial engineer by the name of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, commissioned by the king to clear the cemetery. The story f...more
Kate Vane
I was enchanted by this book at the beginning. It is beautifully written and immediately creates a world that is both haunting and convincing.

In pre-revolutionary France, a young engineer from the provinces, eager to impress, is given the task of clearing a cemetery in the centre of Paris. The engineer’s work throws him into a world of colourful characters – a woman who exchanges sexual favours for books, a gang of foundlings turned agitators, a priest sent mad by torture. The engineer has to g...more
Amy
Jean-Baptiste Baratte is a modern man, well-versed in Voltaire and ready to leave his peasant upbringing behind. Eager to display his engineering talents, he meets the minister at Versailles to receive his first significant appointment. Confident, composed, although a bit cocky, he really can’t foresee any challenge his enlightened education can’t overcome.


But, all his plans of illustrious success are somewhat hampered by the assignment he receives, one that is couched in a veiled threat. His j...more
Brian
Set in Paris in 1785, Pure tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young engineer tasked with the destruction of the cemetery of Les Innocents. This ancient graveyard has become so overloaded with human remains that the stench of putrefaction is poisoning the air of the capital. Indeed, within a short time of his arrival the stench has permeated Baratte's person so entirely that when he returns to visit his family in the Normandy countryside they cannot fail to notice it.

The cleansing of th...more
Laura
Aug 31, 2012 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: NYT
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lia
I really like this book. It is not perfect but it was a very enjoyable reading. My actual rating is hovering around 3.5 stars to 3.75 stars.

The Good;
The writer could transformed me as a reader inside the head of his character and made me hopped seamlessly from one point of view to another point of view.

The story it self could transcend time and place. Written in such a way that made me laugh, sad, scared. Written in such a way that I feel I was there.


The Bad;
Ever experienced one of those intens...more
Ian Young
Pure by Andrew Miller is set in pre-revolutionary Paris, and deals with the demolition of the Cemetery of les Innocents, a place filled to overflowing with the remains of countless generations of Parisians, rich and poor. The cemetery has been closed to new interments but retains its priest, an organist and a verger. However, it has become an offense and health hazard to the surrounding area. The Minister commissions a young engineer from the country, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, to undertake the demo...more
Hannah Taylor
I purchased this book on a whim; I rarely purchase reading material without scrupulously comparing prices online, and making sure that yes, I definitely do want to read this book. However, when in Waterstones, one can rarely resist buying something - is it something in the paper-filled air? I can't be the only one, and as wonderful as Amazon is, 'Look Inside!' feature takes all the romance out of smelling and caressing a brand new book.

Anyway, this contemporary read is set in 18th Century pre-re...more
Alison Newell
This is a beautifully written but harrowing account of the clearing of an ancient and over-crowded graveyard situated in the centre of Paris, just at the time when the city was beginning to ferment with revolution. The consequences of the past are horribly present, both in terms of past injustices endured by the people, and the all-pervading smell of the dead which creeps into everything in the vicinity.
The title of the book is wonderfully ironic; grit, grime, ordure, decay, filth and degenerati...more
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What does the ending mean?!!! (spoiler alert) 9 183 Aug 05, 2013 08:33AM  
The Readers: Book #8; Pure by Andrew Miller 7 36 Jul 27, 2012 03:04AM  
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  • Gillespie and I
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  • The Somnambulist
  • A Place of Greater Safety
  • Music and Silence
  • Lazarus is Dead
  • Toby's Room
  • The Quality of Mercy
  • Wish You Were Here
  • From the Mouth of the Whale
  • 1913 - Der Sommer des Jahrhunderts
  • Secrecy
  • The Last Banquet
  • On Canaan's Side
  • Diving Belles
  • The Victorian Chaise Longue
  • Enchantments
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Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. His second novel, CASANOVA, was published in 1998, followed by OX...more
More about Andrew Miller...
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“First ambitions are best. We are less brave later.” 13 likes
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