My rating: 4 of 5 stars
this review refers to the audiobook version.
this book is a macabre ride… we get death, and the premonition of horror, and some beautiful, beautiful imagery.
in the year or so preceding the French Revolution, our hero Jean-Baptiste Baratte is given the twisted contract to remove a blocks-wide, age-old cemetery from the center of Paris. the bones lie meters deep and must be removed, along with the church to which they are attached, elsewhere… anywhere but here.
Jean-Baptiste is an engineer–not a philosopher, not a clergyman-but an engineer, because who better to effect the removal of centuries of bones, bones so numerous and deeply-buried? the task requires a certain skill set, and regardless of the spiritual necessities or philosophical questions, bones are matter; pits of bones are a miner’s specialty.
the beauties of this particular book are in the language. Miller is a genius at constructing the image, the metaphor, the feel of the horrific task. consider how the task might be done with only the shovel, the pick, the torch: piles and berms of bones, brought out by muscle alone.
this is an odd book, and oddly beautiful. the unfolding sense of the unearthly, the chasms of time… all better experienced through the book. go read it.