Review Blog

Nov 02 2020

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

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Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781526622426.
(Age: Adult/Young Adult). Highly recommended. Piranesi knows many things. He knows that he is a man of thirty five, that is one of just 15 people to have lived throughout history and that his home is the House, a labyrinthine complex of stone halls peopled by statues and regularly visited by fierce tides from the surrounding ocean. Piranesi has one friend, the Other, who he meets with twice a week for an hour. Piranesi knows that he is helping the Other discover the Great and Secret Knowledge of the world, even if he does not understand what that knowledge is. Piranesi is content with his life writing journals and surviving in his harsh environment until one day the Other confirms something Piranesi has long suspected: that there is a sixteenth person in the world and that this person wishes to do them harm. Suddenly Piranesi's carefully regulated life is plunged into chaos and intrigue as he begins to question everything he knows about the House, the Other and himself.
What an extraordinary and unexpected book. Piranesi is everything fans of Susanna Clark have been waiting for since she last published a full-length novel in 2004. Sixteen years ago, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was hailed as a revolutionary and exemplary example of historical fantasy. Readers who have waited for almost two decades for another offering will not be disappointed by Piranesi. Clarke's characteristic dreamy and almost hypnotic writing style is again present but is honed to perfection. While Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was a fantasy epic of over one thousand pages, Piranesi is less than a quarter of the length. Readers are introduced to this new world, guided through the novel's core mystery and released almost before realising that the book has come to an end.
Piranesi is a novel so unique it is difficult to make comparisons with other works. Clarke has proven once again that she is a master of her craft and unafraid to push the boundaries of modern fantasy writing. This book is highly recommended.
Themes: Identity, Isolation, Friendship, Labyrinths, Secrets, Mystery.
Rose Tabeni

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