I finished the audiobook version, narrated by Jonathan Aris, two days ago. I had to in fact listen to the ending three times; the details were confusing - which kind of annoyed me! I do think I understand the message that was being imparted by the final scene. Anyway, what I most enjoyed about this book was its imagery. You feel as though you are in Paris. The Parisians are acting like Parisians. You perceive the streets, the sounds and sights and smells. Well, not really the smells, because the stench of Paris in 1785 is not the way it smells today. The area around the "Cemetery of Les Innocents", given its mass graves and the decomposing bodies, had not the fragrance of a floral garden! All the bones and bodies were to be excavated and moved elsewhere! This is a fictional story about this project.
For those "nutters" like me who want to know the historical details, here are the facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saints_Innocents_Cemetery
So what I really liked about this book was being in Paris again, but if you haven't been in Paris you maybe will not feel yourself there again.... that is a possibility. Maybe this is a book for those of us who do know Paris and want to make a trip back!
This book not only depicts the physical aspects of Paris in the 1780s but also its "philosophical trends" - Voltaire and Descartes and the Age of the Enlightenment, Le Siècle des Lumières. The message of the book is related to whether its main character, Jean Baptiste Barrat, does or does not become a modern man, in the sense of the new philosophy of the time. So the book is not only about the cemetery but also about ordinary people living in the time of the Enlightenment.
Maybe the events are a bit unbelievable, but I don't read a book for its plot. I prefer character studies and depictions of a time and place. Nevertheless, three stars is my rating. I enjoyed myself while I was there, engulfed in Paris of those years, but what exactly did I get from my reading? I felt the author was trying to leave a message with the confusing ending. That I could have done without. It's a bit trite. I believe Miller wants it said that Barrat had grown and was a wiser man even if the retreat looked as though he was following the same path. Why was he changed? Through his own choices and actions or through a medical event that happened to him, nothing he did himself? To understand what I am saying here you have to read the book!
The narrator does know French; it was a relief to hear French spoken with correct pronunciation.