Almost fifteen years after the publication of her first novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, author Susanna Clarke has returned with Piranesi, a story about a man living in a house which, with its hundreds of halls and atriums which are full of statues, seems to be a world all of its own.
What if it is?
Unlike, her first novel, Susanna Clarke opts for brevity with Piranesi. At 245 pages, it’s only a quarter of the size of its predecessor, but the author succeeds in enveloping the reader in Piranesi’s home/world with ease. The lonely vastness of the House is easily tangible to the reader as it is to Piranesi who, other than a mysterious figure which Piranesi so-creatively calls “The Other”, is the only one who roams its endless halls that every now and then are flooded by great tides. The House is a character all of its own, not only to Piranesi, but also to the reader. It truly feels like a living, breathing entity that is not only benevolent but also dangerous at times.
The first quarter of the novel doesn’t have too much to do with the main plot say for establishing Piranesi’s familiarity with the house and his relationship (if that’s what you want to call it) with The Other. Slowly but surely, however, Clarke begins dropping hints and factoids that make Piranesi question things. Is The Other really his friend? Is the House his home or his prison? And is someone else roaming its halls?
My favorite part of Piranesi was the ending. There are about twenty or so pages left of the book after the climax is finished with and I wasn’t sure exactly what Susanna Clarke would do with such a large number of pages after the story was finished, but she really surprised me by toying with my emotions. I really cannot say more than that because it would certainly spoil the book for you.
If you’re a fan of moody, atmospheric stories and are looking for something like that to read this October, I would look no further than Piranesi.