Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Piranesi is definitely best read without any prior knowledge. I didn’t know much about it before I started it, and I’m glad that I got to discover the world on my own.

For that reason, I don’t intend to seriously analyze any part of the book, just deliver my opinion in the case that it will help you make the decision about whether or not you want to pick this up.

First of all–it’s weird. Like really weird. Random things are Capitalized with No Apparent Reasoning behind it. It makes the book choppy and quite difficult to flow through, at least for the beginning. The characters are quirky and parts of the plot do not Make Sense. You will be confused for about a third of the book, and by that point you might find it a bit monotonous. Based on other reviews I’ve read, most people speed through it (me included), but I can see how others found it a bit of a drag at times.

Luckily, all of this weirdness resulted in a lovely atmosphere. For the most part, the book was utterly captivating, and I agree with praise that compares its tone to Circe by Madeline Miller. It felt dreamy and ethereal, hard to grasp but also a bit nostalgic. Unfortunately, I think Clarke’s attempt to explain things towards the end was a bit disenchanting to me. It was almost The Secret History-esque in how it lost its air of mystery with explicit “here’s why this happened” dialogue. Which leads my to my next point:

I think it’s one of those books that has to simmer. My first conclusion upon finishing it was that I was not impressed. I thought the plot was predictable and a little conventional, at least as far as other similar magical-realism-type fantasy goes. However, after sitting on it for a while, I’ve come to appreciate its nuances and subtleties a bit more. It has some themes that are relevant to things many of us have experienced during the past year, and for me it provided a little hope and comfort regarding that. It was surprisingly wholesome and will provide food for thought for a while. It’s quite short, so really there’s not much of a downside in giving it a go.

Happy reading,

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