Review: Piranesi

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are rare moments in fiction that live long in your memory. For me, once such moment is arriving, after some sixty odd pages, at the moment in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell when Norell brings all the stone statues in a cathedral to life and they start talking. That was real magic and what stayed with me was the seemingly effortless confidence that Clarke has as she draws her reader in, confident that they will catch up, and will come to understand what is going on. That artfulness and artistry is on display in Piranesi, her first novel in the fourteen years since JS&MrN released.

I'm not even sure how to describe this novel without given away major plot spoilers. Piranesi, a gentle and good-hearted soul, lives in a labyrinthine house of infinite rooms, with the lowest floors flooded by the ocean they contain. Initially, it seems as if his mind is lost in this labyrinth but as you explore his world you are drawn into the sheer beauty and magnificence of it. The question of where he is, why he is there, and most of all how he came to be there is the core of the novel. You get glimpses of the answers to these questions and eventually come to understand. But the true magic of the story is how Piranesi chooses to live, both before and after.

A lush novel that begs to be reread again and again. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose sonorous voice has earned a place on my list of people to whom I would listen reading the telephone directory or cereal box ingredients.

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