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Pure Paperback – 5 Jan 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (5 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444724282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444724288
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (291 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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. He has since written five novels: CASANOVA, OXYGEN, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, THE OPTIMISTS, ONE MORNING LIKE A BIRD, and PURE, which won the Costa Book of the Year award in 2011. His new novel, THE CROSSING, will be published in August 2015.

Product Description


* The 2011 Costa Book of the Year * (.)

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)

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)

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)

I finished it in two sittings. Pure is a work of beauty embroidered by Miller's exquisite gift for poetic description... it is a delight. And though a historical novel with decay its running theme, the writing is dazzlingly fresh and modern. (Carol Midgley, The Times)

Seldom have I read a novel that evokes the atmosphere of a time and a place so well. The moral, cultural and physical stench of seething, pre-revolutionary, contagious Paris is pervasive on nearly every page as Miller evokes a society in terminal decay... Miller surprises us with some superb characters. Armand is a delight... Miller's prose style is dazzling yet never obtrudes (The Times Book Club)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

195 of 203 people found the following review helpful By J. Aitken VINE VOICE on 3 Mar. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Andrew Miller is a writer new to me, but on the evidence of this excellent book I have ordered a number of his other novels to read.

The story is a deceptively simple one concerning a young engineer from Normandy who is charged with the task of overseeing the destruction of the cemetery and church of Les Innocents in Les Halles in Paris in 1785. Miller is brilliant at evoking the period, and peoples his tale with a cast of fully fledged characters whose lives react with the engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte. In this year of work Baratte grows as a person and this in itself is worth the price of the book, but where Miller really scores is in his subtle laying out the undercurrents of disquiet and unrest which would eventually lead to bloodshed and revolution. From the dog pissing on the parquet of the neglected Palace of Versailles to the mysterious graffiti which appears threatening change, this is a city on the cusp of something terrible.

The removal of the bones of the dead accompanied by disgruntled priests singing prayers seems a shadow of what will come. All this is accomplished in the most wonderful prose. Miller has an absolute gift for finding the most apposite phrase.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it very highly indeed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Skeadugenga TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 May 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had not heard of Andrew Miller before, but on the strength of this book I will be ordering his other work. His prose is beautiful and memorable phrases stay with you for good; he has a gift for vivid imagery.

At the bidding of a mysterious government minister, a young engineer - Jean-Baptiste Baratte - spends a year overseeing the dismantling of the church of Les Innocents and the graveyard attached to it. The clearing away of the corruption which poisons the lives of those in its vicinity foreshadows the French Revolution to come, much is necessarily lost in the deluge and those doing the work and innocent bystanders suffer in its execution.

Baratte's emotions are repressed at the beginning of the book, he suffers the torture of self doubt, but gradually develops as a character in the course of the story. His is the only fully developed character in the book, like a photograph where the subject in the foreground is the only one in focus. His inner thoughts, observations and interactions with others drive the story forwards.

Any emotional engagement with the characters is the responsiblity of the reader, this is a spare and cerebral novel where ideas and language are more important. Another review mentioned Kazuo Ishiguro and I'd agree, there is an emotional reticence shared by both writers which gives additional impact and allows the reader to fill in the gaps.

A great writer and highly recommended.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Peter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I put off reading this book for a while by my unfounded belief that it would be some sort of fictionalised history of the days leading up to the French Revolution. In fact, it's nothing of the sort. It's a novel set a few years before the French Revolution, with a fine eye for historical detail and for the manners of the time, but it nonetheless has the pacing and character development of a modern novel, and it's very readable.

The stench of the cemetery of l'Innocents near the Pont Neuf in Paris has become unbearable - it is so stuffed full of nearly 1,000 years of burials that there is more rotting flesh and bone than there is soil, and during times of heavy rains neighbouring cellars have collapsed under the weight of water-saturated bodies. A provincial engineer, Baratte, is charged with clearing the cemetery and demolishing the church. This is a quite macabre scanario, but much of the interest also comes from the budding revolutionaries and other bizarre characters that Baratte meets with during the project.

The clearance of the cemeteries is a historical fact, of course - the bones were stacked in abandoned quarries that have become the Catacombes of Paris. In this novel, the themes of decay, of collapse and of the sweeping away of the old orders combine as a sort of extended metaphor for the French monarchy. However, the story is that of the engineer Baratte, who arrives in the city naive and impressionable.

It's a skillfully-executed book, one with a rather strange macabre, fin-de-siecle or (more accurately, I suppose) pre-revolutionary feel.

Update, 25-Jan-2012: I see that Pure has been awarded the Costa Prize. This is well-deserved recognition: congratulations, Andrew Miller!
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123 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE on 12 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Initially I approached this book with some caution. The only other Andrew Miller novel I'd read many years before was Ingenious Pain, and although I could see that it was a great novel, I did find it hard going at the time. The premise of his latest though was so attractive, and by the second chapter I was hooked on this rather original historical novel.

Pure is set in 1785, shortly before the French Revolution. Jean-Baptiste Baratte is a young Norman engineer, hired by the King's offices to oversee the cleansing of an overfilled and now closed Parisian cemetery and its church, that is poisoning the earth and air all around it. Nice job eh? Jean-Baptiste heads off into Paris, where lodgings have been set up with a local family overlooking the cemetery. He soon makes friends with Armand, the church organist, and finds that everything smells better after a brandy or two. He contacts his colleague from his last job at the mines at Valenciennes - Lecoeur will bring a team of miners to Paris to dig out the cemetery. Jeanne, the teenaged grand-daughter of the sexton will look after the men - indeed most of them grow to love her as their own daughter.

All is set and the excavation is underway. Some doctors arrive, including one Dr Guillotin - yes! He is there to examine the bones, but his presence will prove necessary on many occasions over the following months - injury, illness, attempted murder, rape, suicide - everything will happen to those involved on this job. But it's not all bad, for Jean-Baptiste will also find love in an unexpected place.

The story is entirely that of Jean Baptiste - he is present on every page.
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