Piranesi – Susanna Clarke

Published by: Bloomsbury
Pages: 245
Released On: 02/09/2021

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

*****

A bit late to the party with this one, but once I started, I devoured it in less than four hours, and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was whimsical and magical and mindboggling – I couldn’t really explain to you what it was about. It is unlike anything I’ve ever red before. The plot is a labyrinth, the characters a labyrinth, and the book itself is a labyrinth, and it turns your brain into one. You’re not really sure how to decipher what you’re reading, but you know you can’t put it down until you’ve finished.

If I’m honest, it didn’t grab me at first as I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. It isn’t a straightforward narrative; it’s not “here’s the start, here’s the middle, and here’s the end”. It’s all mixed into one and you never know if you’re on the right foot or listening to the right person. There’s tricks and treats and red herrings and clues round every corner.

It ended up being extremely captivating and completely and utterly unique. Susanna is amazing at world building, and whether the world in the book is a reality or a fantasy or a mindset, it is built so perfectly you could walk its halls.

It’s difficult to review this properly without giving spoilers, but this is a book you need to read without knowing anything about it before. I’m not all that bothered by spoilers most of the time, and sometimes actively seek them out (horror!) but I do think this is a book best read blind; I think you’d get more out of it that way.

I believe Piranesi was nominated for, and won, many awards last ad I can see why. To quote Churchill (who I believe is the only authority on the matter), this book is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.

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