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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.

From Publishers Weekly

24 September 2012 – In another exploration of historical lacunae, Miller (Ingenious Pain) delves into pre-Revolutionary Paris, where a pestilential, ancient cemetery acts as metaphor for the blighted reign of King Louis XVI. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young Norman engineer who prides himself on his faculties of reason, is commissioned by the king's minister to close the centuries-old les Innocents cemetery, whose noxious sprawl threatens to poison adjacent neighborhoods. Jean-Baptiste moves in nearby and begins orchestrating the massive exhumation, hiring miners to dig up the thousands of bodies and cart away the bones. Among those whose lives will be changed by his commission are Jean-Baptiste's friend Armand, the organist at les Innocents' church; and H lo se, a literate prostitute, who becomes his mistress. But as the digging commences, unexpected complications arise: risk of cave-ins, infection, rats, bats, madness, fire, and the special danger posed by his landlords' vengeful daughter, Ziguette. Despite all obstacles, Jean-Baptiste forges on with his ghoulish task, but at what cost to reason? Although the book's dramas fail to coalesce, Miller recreates pre-Revolutionary Paris with astonishing verisimilitude, and through Jean-Baptiste, illuminates the years preceding le deluge.

Customer Reviews

Pure Brilliance

One of the finest books I have read in many years.
The French Revolution channelled through an engineer charged with clearing a cemetery in Paris.
Sentences and descriptions at once obvious, brilliant and new in a book of perfect pace and interest.
Get it.

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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: 09 June 2011
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Seller: Hachette Australia Pty Ltd
  • Print Length: 300 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings