“Piranesi” by Susanna Clarke is an atmospheric and intensely detail oriented read. The world laid out within its pages is expertly crafted and incredibly interesting to learn about.
The book follows a man named Piranesi as he explores his labyrinthian home. Within this labyrinth of a house are infinite rooms filled with halls, statues, and even an ocean. Piranesi joyously does research on something called the Great and Secret Knowledge for a man named The Other who visits him every two weeks. But as Piranesi learns more about the world he inhabits, a mystery reveals itself.
This book is written in the first person and through journal entries, but unlike many books it doesn’t step into the same pitfalls. Even though it is told solely from Piranesi’s perspective it never leaves a detail undescribed. It is intensely atmospheric and describes everything with a childlike wonder. Susanna Clarke finds ways to describe common items in ways that most would never think of. Some of the descriptions in the beginning will be kind of confusing and use a lot of repetition, but if you take the new details as they come and remember them it will all make sense in the end. It is also quite slow compared to most other fantasy books because it is not very plot driven. It is not a grand epic journey, but is much more character driven.
Piranesi is a man who is lost in what it means to be human. He is the only one except the Other who lives in this infinitely large labyrinth and yet he doesn’t wallow, he learns. He writes his journals to keep track of information for himself, but also for the people after him so that they know what this world meant to the people of the past. In this way it is a very fascinating, compelling, and thought provoking study on humanity.
The enjoyment of this book will definitely depend on the kind of reading you like to do. If you’re looking for a plot driven action packed fantasy adventure this may not be for you, but if you want to read a book full of atmospheric descriptions, an expertly crafted plot, and amazing characters you’ll want to add this one to your shelf.
Author: Susanna Clarke
Page Count: 245 Hardcover, 272 Paperback
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Mystery
My Rating: ★★★★