Friday, October 09, 2020

'Pure' by Andrew Miller

 9 October 2020

The best book I’ve read so far this year was Andrew Miller’s 2018 historical thriller ‘Now We Shall Be Entirely Free’, set during the Napoleonic Wars (reviewed here in April 2020). I was keen to read something else by him and have just finished ‘Pure’ – a novel he published in 2011 which is set in pre-revolutionary France of the 1780s (which I read as an unabridged audio book, narrated by Jonathan Aris). Andrew Miller’s writing is wonderful – beautifully crafted and constantly amusing. He conjures up the reality of living in Paris in 1785, through the quirky tale of the demolition and clearing of an old church and cemetery. He creates an extensive cast of believable, sympathetic characters and his protagonist, the engineer charged with overseeing the demolition project (“a man, neither young nor old”), floats through the story with an innocent naivety. But ‘Pure’ lacks the thriller plot of ‘Now We Shall Be Entirely Free’: it’s a much more gentle tale which feels more interested in the period (and the early stirrings of revolution). Despite three dramatic and violent incidents that punctuate the narrative, you are left with the feeling that not much has really happened. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable and entertaining read and I look forward to reading more Andrew Miller.



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