“Piranesi” by Susanna Clarke


This book delighted me! It’s set (mostly) in an alternative world, an unpeopled place of large halls, statues, birds and the ocean. It starts out so austerely – one character, living almost entirely alone.

Bit by bit, other pieces are added. Another character. More hints, and many unanswered questions. Who built the “House”? What happened to Piranesi’s memories? Who is the “Other”, and how did he get the consumer goods he brings, like tennis shoes and vitamins? Why does Piranesi consider the house benevolent? Is this really a story about seeking meaning?

A few more people (living and dead) are added to the cast of characters, and the plot speeds up. Clarke kept me guessing!

This book is lean. Clarke could easily have made it as long as her earlier novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I’m glad she resisted this temptation. Piranesi is an elegant story and a pure pleasure for the reader.


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