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The author describes the area around Les Innocents, which consisted of both a church and its churchyard, which for centuries had accepted the dead of the city. Les Innocents has really existed, and that is what makes the novel historical. The events being described is however pure fiction.
In short, we follow a young engineer named Jean-Baptiste, by whom the King of France has hired to tear down the church and move all the corpses out of town. The young man is dreaming of building bridges, lots of bridges. But as a young engineer, he must be content with the work he once has been offered - even the less attractive jobs.We are allowed to follow him throughout the year it takes him to demolish the church and churchyard. We'll follow his victories, his speculations and his frustration. We'll get insight into the reaction of his surroundings when it is revealed to them what his real mission is about. A fact that brings him friends along with enemies.
Does the book sounds interesting to you? Maybe not. But Andrew Miller is able to maintain the interest of the reader in a way that you just have to read one more page to see how things develop. I assume that the author has tried to use an old-fashioned writing style that suits the story's timeline and environment. The way he constructs the phrases are sometimes incredibly complicated, to a degree that it interferred with my reading speed, because I needed to read the same sentence several times to make it make sense to me. I can not really decide whether it is a nuisance or just an expression of a complete and thoroughly prepared piece of literature. I lean towards the latter, because I have a distinct feeling that I am dealing with a writer who shows pedantic accuracy and who has really put himself into even the smallest details.
'Pure' provides an amazing and very realistic view of Paris around the year 1785. And if you have just the slightest interest in history, you will find many interesting details to explore. If you are only looking for a stereotype and average book, I will not recommend 'Pure'. As mentioned before, the structure of the sentence and vocabulary of the book makes it sometimes difficult to understand, and that's why the book is not likely to be appreciated for its qualities, if you are not an experienced reader.
'Pure' is not a book I would have chosen myself, and had it not been for this copy to be reviewed, I would surely have missed a really interesting literary experience.