Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer of modest origin, arrives in the city in 1785, charged by the King’s minister with emptying the overflowing cemetery of Les Innocents, a ancient site whose stench is poisoning the neighborhood’s air and water and leaving a vile taste in its inhabitants’ food. At first the ambitious Baratte sees his work as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to both his own demise and that of the monarchy. Baratte expects the task to be unpleasant but cannot foresee the dramas and calamities it will trigger, or the incident that will transform his life. As unrest against the court of Louis XVI mounts, the engineer realizes that the future he had planned may no longer be the one he wants. His assignment becomes a year of relentless work, exhuming of mummified corpses and listening to the chants of priests, a year of assault and sudden death. A year of friendship, too, and of desire and love. A year unlike any other he has lived
For those that enjoy historical fiction here's a pick for you! I don't read much historical fiction but what got me interested in this particular one is it's set right outside the Palace of Versailles during the time of Louis XVI. I am a fan of the movie Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst
and thought that it would be interesting to see what it was like for the people living outside the palace during the same time.
While our main character's job is most undesirable, and most likely to fail. He only does some of the dirty work himself. Soon after arriving to clean out the remains of an overflowing cemetery he gets a crew of 30 men to dig. They find many things during their exhumations.
Even though Jean-Baptiste is hired for this rather untasteful task, it does consume a year of his life. There is much more to this story than digging up the bodies. The church that lies above, in which the bodies are slowly encroaching and the nearby shopping center. The conflicts as well as intermixing concerns of both, and more!
He does find comfort in the arms of Héloise and a friend in Armand. Of course at the heart of the story is that there is revolution brewing. People are upset and want enlightenment. And during this day and age, their lives will literally go up in flames.
A melancholy story full of dead bodies, but with love and friendship during one of the hardest years in their lives.