My Holiday Reading: Sophia Rosney


There are times when it’s great to be a foreigner. It gives you the freedom, separate as you may be from the people living in a city, to step back, to observe as you wish, to see a city in a different way. And still, as you wander through, you feel like you could easily be a part of the place. Just as much part of the place as the secret histories and ghosts of old buildings, as the winding streets and their past lives.

I first began to read Pure by Andrew Miller just before I left for a week in Paris, my first solo journey abroad. Staying in an apartment with a French family, I spent much of my time with the book. Set in Paris in 1785, it tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer hired to perform the assignment of his career, an assignment that nobody else will take on. He moves from a small country village to the middle of a city covered with the stench of an overflowing cemetery, full of strange characters caught up in living a modern life. He is swept up in their world, so different from the one he just left, with the constant pressure of the terrible job he has to do at the cemetery of Les Innocents.

Both the book and trip were extraordinary. I left feeling changed, although not as changed as Jean-Baptiste. Such a contrast between the two worlds: Pure’s Paris and my experience of Paris as the tourist.

In conversation with Sara Keating

Sophia Rosney is
17 and has just completed transition year at Muckross Park College, in Dublin

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