Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

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 Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

TITLE: Piranesi
AUTHOR: Susanna Clarke
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing
YEAR: 2020
LENGTH: 272 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s).

PIRANESI is melancholic and contemplative, a meditation on an existence which is as familiar to the narrator as it will likely be bewildering to the reader. 

The prose is immersive in both style and content, gradually explaining what’s literally happening even as the narrator often misses the significance of what he’s relaying, or places a different importance on it. The setting is known to the narrator, his sense of the world is that he knows his place within it and the shape of its peculiarities, though there’s always more to explore. Since the reader necessarily is outside of that understanding at first, it provides for slow revelations and discoveries as the contents of his explanations begin to, gradually, make sense. Towards the midpoint it becomes that I could guess at things he didn’t yet understand, providing some of the great feeling of guessing the solution to a mystery early. The ending, however, plays out in a way I didn’t predict but which feels suitable.

I feel so peaceful, after reading it. There’s a kind of happiness from listening to someone talk at length about a thing they love, and Piranesi loves The House. It’s not all great for him, especially when plot things ensue, but vast stretches of the book are filled with the love and care of someone who pays intimate attention to something which fascinates them.

CW for gaslighting, abandonment, kidnapping, mental illness, blood (minor), violence, gun violence, death.

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