A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests. A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love...A year unlike any other he has lived. 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 begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.
Winner of the Costa Novel Award 2011.
'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
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 four novels: Casanova, Oxygen, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, The Optimists and One Morning Like a Bird.