Pure, By Andrew Miller


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The Independent Culture

In 1785, the young Norman engineer Baratte oversees the clearance of the fetid cemetery of Les Innocents in Paris and the transfer of its huddled dead to Porte d'Enfer.

As the corpses move, visitors "strain for metaphor" and strive "to see all France in this caravan of bones". That was the risk for Andrew Miller in his Costa "Book of the Year": to bury period and place beneath hindsight and allegory.

His novel's triumph is that the squalid streets, wayward characters and confused hopes of a lost Paris come back to life on their own terms, animated by his lean, smart, cliché-free narration. Yes, we can smell the unrest and feel the crackle of change. But as a resurrectionist's feat, Pure casts off all shrouds to rise, body and voice intact, from time's tomb.