* The 2011 Costa Book of the Year *
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
The book pulls off an ambitious project: to evoke a complex historical period through a tissue of deftly selected details.
Almost dreamlike, a realistic fantasy, a violent fairytale for adults
Enthralling . . . superbly researched, brilliantly narrated and movingly resolved.
I finished it in two sittings. Pure is a work of beauty embroidered by Miller's exquisite gift for poetic description . . . it is a delight. And though a historical novel with decay its running theme, the writing is dazzlingly fresh and modern.
Seldom have I read a novel that evokes the atmosphere of a time and a place so well. The moral, cultural and physical stench of seething, pre-revolutionary, contagious Paris is pervasive on nearly every page as Miller evokes a society in terminal decay . . . Miller surprises us with some superb characters. Armand is a delight . . . Miller's prose style is dazzling yet never obtrudes
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
Enthralling ... superbly researched, brilliantly narrated and movingly resolved
Exquisite inside and out, PURE is a near-faultless thing
It draws you in with hallucinatory power