Jonathan Beckman

House of Bones

Pure

By Andrew Miller

Sceptre 346pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

It was only in eighteenth-century France that, at last, the dead began to stay dead. For thousands of years, death was considered merely to be the final qualification for life everlasting. But a cadre of philosophes, eloquent if few in number, argued that matter maketh man – and matter alone. The idea that he was animated by an immortal soul was attacked in works such as La Mettrie’s Man a Machine, Diderot’s D’Alembert’s Dream and D’Holbach’s System of Nature. In Andrew Miller’s superb new novel, set in Paris a few years before the Revolution, the dead weigh heavily on the minds of the living, despite all the disenchantments of science and philosophy.

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