Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

4 out of 5 stars

This is a house like no other, there seems to be an endless number of rooms whose walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues. It is alongside the sea and at certain times the tides fill the lower rooms sending booms through the labyrinth of rooms.

In this place lives a man called Piranesi. He has mapped the rooms in each direction and has favourite statues in some of them. He calculates when the tides will be high so he knows when to retreat to other parts for safety. Mostly he is alone, but once a week a man he calls The Other appears and speaks to him about what he has discovered in the past week. It is a life that he is happy with.

Except for one week, The Other says that someone else has found the way into this labyrinth. He warns Piranesi not to talk to them at all as the knowledge that they bring is dangerous. The very thought of his routines being disturbed is enough to panic Piranesi and that fear is magnified when he starts to find messages left from this intruder. He does his best to destroy them, but he sees snippets of what they are saying and he slowly begins to doubt all that he knows.

I found this to be a very strange tale indeed. Piranesi is the sole inhabitant of a series of thousands of rooms that are located on the coast somewhere. I much preferred it to Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell which was far too overwritten in my opinion. In this book, the writing is taut as Clarke manages to paint scenes with a sparse number of words. It feels like a fantasy, to begin with, but as the plot unfolds it becomes much more sinister. It is very atmospheric too and one of the things that I also liked is that not everything is fully explained, so the conclusion of the story leaves lots to the imagination.

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2 Comments

  1. Annabel (AnnaBookBel)

    So glad you enjoyed this book!

    • Paul

      Much prefer this to her first

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