Piranesi

hardcover, 272 pages

English language

Published Sept. 13, 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

ISBN:
9781635575637

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4 stars (117 reviews)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

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 …

7 editions

Splendid tale, in a symbolic setting which is strikingly and evocatively minimal.

4 stars

Content warning Minor spoiler, which reveals a mid-book event which is very different in setting than the consistency of the opening chapters might suggest.

Perfectly Crafted... Fantasy Novel? Oneiric Mystery?

5 stars

It's hard to overstate how much this book feels written specifically for me - I love books with any sort of physically improbable gigantic building, fantasy books where people enter other worlds, academic thrillers, etc - and Piranesi nails the blend perfectly. A sheer delight with an extremely thoughtful denouement.

Wonder, unfolding

5 stars

This is one of those "sense of wonder turned to 11" books for me. A great story that unfolds beautifully in the moment, and also makes you continually re-evaluate what you've read along the way.

The book's description mentions "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" and "Circe" as reference points. While those feel fair, I found myself thinking more about Patrick Rothfuss's "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" and M.R. Carey's Rampart Trilogy ("The Book of Koli", etc). There's a certain feeling I don't have the words to describe, but which feels shared among those books. "Reverence for the mundane" isn't quite it, but maybe close.

I had passed over "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" despite many recommendations, and now I feel compelled to revisit that!

reviewed Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

the universe is a house

5 stars

Such a curious book with a great main character. I love its interpretation of infinity and labyrinths, mapping it in a house that, before Piranesi's eyes, is the whole universe. Few beings inhabit the house, and Piranesi is fascinated by all, including an enigma who goes by The Other.

It's with this childlike wonder that he guides the reader so lovingly through the dizzying architecture of infinity, offering a bright and, in my opinion, endearing voice in the journal entries he loves to write.

I can't say much else because it's really such a unique book in terms of worldbuilding. If you like statues and/or architecture, this will leave you inspired.

One minor but cute character detail that stuck with me: Although it is a world ravaged by floods, the sound of the ocean is calming to Piranesi, and easily it lulls him to sleep.

Something about this sentiment resonates …

Review of 'Piranesi' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

‘It is my belief that the World (or, if you will, the House, since the two are for all practical purposes identical) wishes an Inhabitant for Itself to be a witness to its Beauty and the recipient of its Mercies.’

This is my type of book, apparently. For a good portion of the beginning, I didn’t believe it. I’m not at all a visual reader, so the inundation of rooms and locations was overwhelming and confusing—but I managed to push through it, because Clarke is skillful in slowly exposing the mysteries of the House. This is my first novel by her but hopefuly not my last. Her style in this book reminded me a lot of early 19th century writing—before proper standardization in English, when people used to emphasize almost all nouns for emphasis. Piranesi, the titular character, has nothing to do with the artist—which is what I had assumed …

Reality plus a little magic

4 stars

I really enjoyed the book, the smaller world that the protagonist lives in is very simple and is intriguing, but not somewhere I feel I need to return to. The larger universe though is interesting, with its reality plus a little magic vibe. I enjoyed the unravelling mystery and it compelled me to read it much faster than I've read books of similar size. The first few chapters describing the House reminded me of the descriptions of The Sleeper Service in Iain M Banks' book Excession. To the point where I thought the book was going to go in a sci-fi direction.

reviewed Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

slow to start, but it does get very good

5 stars

I found this book a bit slow for the first 50–60 pages, which are spent mostly describing the World without much of any sort of Plot happening. It only really begins to pick up around Part 3, when the mystery inherent to the setting starts to unravel, all through the eyes of a narrator not so much unreliable as naïve and lacking in knowledge, which makes him unable to understand things which are clear to the reader. It's the sort of book where it's worth reading (or at least skimming) the first few parts again to see what you missed the first read through.

Most likely the best book I'll read this year

5 stars

As the title says, this will likely be the best book I'll read all year. It certainly was better than every book I read last year. I started the book yesterday evening and have basically spent my every waking moment since then reading it. I strongly recommend anyone who enjoys reading to pick this one up. It will be worth it.

I will not say anything on what it is actually about. The less you know, the more you will enjoy the book. Not really because of twists and turns but rather because you will see an astounding world laid out from the perspective of a very interesting main character.

The main thing this book reminded me of was the books I read in German class in my two last years at school. This is a very good thing (German was my favorite class). The book is fairly short and …

A beautiful book that quiets and comforts my mind

5 stars

If we were born in another world what form would the shadows cast upon the walls of our cave take? What mythologies and art would inform our identity? What are the limits that malicious people have to do harm through warping and confining our realities? How does the society around me shape the person I am at any given time?

Piranesi explores these questions in a labyrinth of an endless house full of statues that is flooded by the sea. The answers are in the faces of our neighbors and in the hushing pose of the faun.

Review of 'Piranesi' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A book that is very hard to describe and even harder to forget. Clocking in at only about 250 pages (quite the turnaround from her last book, [b:Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1357027589l/14201.SY75.jpg|3921305], which has over 1,000), it tells the story of Piranesi, a man wandering / exploring in a huge labyrinth. He carefully journals his travels, tides and statues. Oh the statues! And twice a week, he meets with The Other, the only other being he knows, to see what the plans are. But gradually his situation become clearer to him and he begins to wonder about his place of "entrapment".

Wow. Just wow. It took a bit for me to get into the book, but much like the main character, I quickly became surrounded by the labyrinth itself and his meticulous descriptions. I am sure the character must be named after Giovanni …

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