Thursday, 28 November 2013

Scent of a Wind: PURE by Andrew Miller

Pure by Andrew Miller
Pure. What a not so sweet smelling little charmer you are. A real treasure that I am pleased to have finally read after a couple years of some less than graceful, evasive manoeuvres. It has played a good game this Pure. Putting itself under my nose at every turn. Gawping at me from the shelf at my library as I reach for a different book. On a friends currently reading pile. In recommended reading lists. Flashing your fine cover in blue or in green. You know I love that cover. Have told you over and over. It has always been one of my favourites. A favourite of all time.
You are everywhere, Pure by Andrew Miller, everywhere I look. So, when I saw you discarded upon the recently returned shelf at my local library, I knew I could not resist you any longer. I succumbed, overcoming my apprehension towards your macabre context, and you yielded, giving up a fortune in charms.

Pure. Was probably not the book I expected it to be. For the last few years I have been raving about that exquisitely beautiful cover. Telling people it was a favourite of all time. And yet I had not read it. Had avoided it. Been evasive when people had tried to push it on me.
Why then did I resist for so long? Well, it had more than a little to do with the nature of the context. The cemetery of les Innocents. Its sides heaving with rotting bodies. The engineer, Jean-Baptiste. Commissioned to clear the over burden of death from les Innocents and transform it into a market place. Does not sound very pleasant does it?
I always knew I would get to Pure eventually. As soon as I could convince my senses that the story within, the story of removing rotting bodies buried one atop the other for hundreds of years, would not offend them. When that time came and I felt my resolve was strong, I went for it. And enjoyed every second.

Yes, the context is gruesome on occasion and yes, the descriptions of the death scent clinging to everything that surrounded les Innocents – clothes, people, food – will perhaps put you off your supper, but it really isn't so bad. Not as bad as I thought it would be. And if you can overcome it there is a story of beauty laying beneath that death mask. A treasure trove of barely restrained sexuality, of books and literature, of relationships and the human mind.

I don't know how this author writes his other books, but I believe that Andrew Miller wrote Pure in a perpetually aroused state. I do not know if others will pick up on this too. Maybe it was just me. But sexual innuendo was everywhere in this story. Not busting at your seams sexuality, but a subtle innuendo. Like a soft breath across your face. Like a length of silk falling from a bed post. The warm liquid feel of sex had its fingers in every corner. From the obvious Heloise the prostitute, to the cadavers of two women, to the moments Jean-Baptiste found himself alone with his hardness, to the girl with her peep hole. It filled the pages. Tainted the words.

And books. If you are a bibliophile then you will love the feel of being in a book surrounded by characters who love books too. Through reading, through education. Titles of books I would never have heard of. Obscure French titles to the more well known such as Robinson Crusoe. I am infatuated with the way Andrew Miller blended the two wonders of sex and books into a story about the decommissioning of a putrid cemetery.

I was seduced, repulsed and hypnotised. 

- MM

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