This book is based on fact.
"A young man of humble background, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, is ordered to exhume the vast and ancient cemetery of Les Innocents in the poor Parisian quarter of Les Halles, and demolish the church. No one knows how many bodies are buried there – it is claimed that during one outbreak of the plague the graveyard received 50,000 in less than a month – but it has recently burst its banks, poisoning the city and spreading "moral disturbance".
Baratte finds that the stink of the dead dominate the quarter, fouling the air and tainting even the breath of those who live there. The vast smoke blackened church that presides over the graveyard obliterates the light. And yet as the young engineer begins the grisly excavations, he finds that the residents of this poor, labrynthine district have a powerful attachment to both.
The impending revolution hangs over the narrative like the blade of the guillotine to come."
Taken from a Guardian review
As you will have gathered not a book for the faint hearted.
A mixed reception of thoroughly enjoyed, quite enjoyed and not enjoyed at all. It did seem to us all that it was a weird, rather creepy subject.
We did agree that it was extremely well written with short, concise sentences. The descriptions were so good we felt that we could hear and smell the things he was describing, it was at once horrific and enthralling. The excavations were done by miners supervised by Jean and his friend who had both been miners. The descriptions of their work, the piles of bones, the transport of these bones to a quarry, the thought of all these men living in tents in the midst of all this- Ugh! The author had obviously done a lot of painstaking research.
There was a part where Jean was at Versailles and saw the elephant that the King had been given by the King of Siam. The writing about this was so well done and took you into the extremes of Paris and its environs at this time.
We discussed whether we would recommend this book to a friend – a difficult one due to the macabre subject. It did come out with a good score of 8.