The clearing of a cemetery stokes the fires of revolution in eighteenth-century France in this Costa Prize–winning “novel of ideas disguised as a ghost story” (The New York Times).
Paris, 1785. An ambitious young engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte arrives in Paris charged with emptying the overflowing cemetery of Les Innocents, an ancient site whose stench is poisoning the neighborhood’s air and water. A self-styled modern man of reason, Baratte sees his work as a chance to clear away the burden of history. But he soon suspects that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own fate—and the demise of the social order.
As unrest against the court of Louis XVI mounts, the engineer realizes that the future he had planned may no longer be the one he wants. His assignment sets him on a path of discovery and desire, as well as relentless labor, assault, and sudden death.
“Pure is a compelling, timely novel—with its throb of revolution, of ordinary people arising in anger—a narrative that takes death as its subject yet races with life.” —The Guardian