Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Wow, I just enjoyed that so much, it’s a beautiful book.

Piranesi (not his name, he’s not sure what it is and doesn’t particularly care) leaves in the World, which is a series of halls and chambers that are full of statues, which cover three levels. The ground levels contain the sea whereas the upper level contains the clouds. Piranesi lives in the middle level though it is affected by the tides and the weather. His only other companion is The Other who he only meets occasionally as he is involved in his great work. Piranesi lives a contented life, living and exploring the seemingly endless halls until he is warned that another is going to come, 16, who threatens to shatter their peaceful existence.

Reading the above introduction summary, this story appears a bit mad. And it is. However, due to how it’s written, after a few pages it all makes sense and you find yourself in the same state of wonderment as our main protagonist. The style, with all the capitalizations, and the language with its pseudo religious framing shouldn’t work but somehow the author makes it all appear natural and appropriate.

It all helps that Piranesi is just a lovely person to read about. His innocence and wonder are infectious and makes the story, I don’t think it would have worked otherwise. There is almost no plot for the first half and though it does step up in the latter half it’s not exactly a scene a minute type of read. There’s a mystery of course, about how this all exists etc, and though I wanted to know, I wasn’t dying to know. I was happy out reading about the character’s life.

This is a short book, I read it in a single evening but there’s a lot there nonetheless. There’s such an atmosphere to it, I just couldn’t put it down. Though it’s totally different to her previous book, there is that similarity in atmosphere and I’m just not sure how to describe it, you can sense her love of the different books she’s read in the way she writes. I know not everyone will love the style but I would encourage people to try it just in case. It’s not long so wouldn’t take too much of your time if it wasn’t to your taste. I wish there more but I’m happy with what there is.

5 stars

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