In another exploration of historical lacunae, Miller (Ingenious Pain) delves into pre-Revolutionary Paris, where a pestilential, ancient cemetery acts as metaphor for the blighted reign of King Louis XVI. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young Norman engineer who prides himself on his faculties of reason, is commissioned by the king's minister to close the centuries-old les Innocents cemetery, whose noxious sprawl threatens to poison adjacent neighborhoods. Jean-Baptiste moves in nearby and begins orchestrating the massive exhumation, hiring miners to dig up the thousands of bodies and cart away the bones. Among those whose lives will be changed by his commission are Jean-Baptiste's friend Armand, the organist at les Innocents' church; and Héloïse, a literate prostitute, who becomes his mistress. But as the digging commences, unexpected complications arise: risk of cave-ins, infection, rats, bats, madness, fire, and the special danger posed by his landlords' vengeful daughter, Ziguette. Despite all obstacles, Jean-Baptiste forges on with his ghoulish task, but at what cost to reason? Although the book's dramas fail to coalesce, Miller recreates pre-Revolutionary Paris with astonishing verisimilitude, and through Jean-Baptiste, illuminates the years preceding le deluge. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta. (July)
Praise for Pure
"Some stories are too wonderful–too filled with wonders–to set in the present. They can't really be called historical fiction because they don't serve history so much as plunder it to invent what might have been. Such is the case with Pure."
—The New York Times Book Review
"This smart reimagining of the groundwork just before France burst into flames is something to savor."
—The Washington Post
"Andrew Miller...is another Hilary Mantel. Pure [is] elegantly written and intricately constructed, with an ending that, like those mirrors at Versailles, cleverly reflects the beginning."
—The New York Times
"Such is a wonder of good fiction, when a topic and a tale of which we are ignorant can–through simple ink symbols on paper–acquire an urgency that casts the rest of our daily rounds in shadow."
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"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."
"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."
"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
"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