Clear, stripped down writing allows the story to slowly unfold
Andrew Miller’s book, based on a real event in pre-revolutionary France, was one of those books which I sank into gratefully.
Set on the eve of the French revolution, Miller uses the real clearing of the overflowing cemetery of Les Innocents, which for centuries was festering the atmosphere around itself, as a metaphor for the cataclysmic shake up of society which was shortly to come, purifying but also horrifying, destructive as well as creative.
Miller is not an author who leaves the reader gasping in admiration at the beautiful turn of descriptive phrase, rather, every word seems judiciously chosen, unpadded, unfussy. Interesting characters are revealed, not all mysteries are explained, but are allowed to not be completely resolved – for example, there is a particular miner, a central and important figure, but exactly what the source of his power is, and what particular movement or ideology he is expressing, is not neatly tied up for the reader. I liked this in Miller’s work.
Characterisations were excellent and individual, and the ability to create a believable sense of the period worked well. The story unfolds fairly slowly, at a pace which seemed very right. Plot seemed character driven, and therefore credible. A satisfying read