Author: Susanna Clarke
Published: 15th September 2020
Synopsis: The long-awaited return from the author of the multi-million copy bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has?
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell transported over four million readers into its mysterious world. It became an instant classic and has been hailed as one of the finest works of fiction of the twenty-first century.
Fifteen years later, it is finally time to enter the House and meet Piranesi.
May your Paths be safe, your Floors unbroken and may the House fill your eyes with Beauty.
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 Piranesi has always known.
For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the cloud
Piranesi loves in a House in another World, writing in his diary, marking the time in an unusual way. He does not know what day, month or year it is, and we are given few hints at first as to why he is there. Piranesi is visited by the Other every so often, yet as the story unfolds and Piranesi uncovers the truth, the narrative moves in and out of the fantasy world we first meet Piranesi in, and our world.
Two worlds, one we know, and one we don’t, come together to create an unusual story that must be read in a linear way–I found that this ensured it made the most sense, and worked the best. From page one, you need to pay attention, as clues are slowly revealed through each entry.
It is a mix of reality and magical realism, with a hint at the world of antiquity and Ancient Greece. The descriptions of the world Piranesi lives in at the beginning of the book make it feel like the ancient world, until something hints at it being in the contemporary world. This gives it a sense of mythology as well.
The mix of reality, magical realism and a sense of mythology and the oral tradition gives Susanna’s new novel that sense of whimsy and intrigue needed to explore Piranesi’s journey that begins with a sense of isolation–something we are all feeling to differing degrees during this pandemic.
This is an unusual novel, quite literary but that’s why it works. Going in without knowing what is to come is disorienting and confusing yet it cleverly brings the reader around to the way the characters think and act, creating a unique world that sometimes leaves you with more questions than answers. Perhaps this is what makes it work. We don’t need to know all the answers, and Piranesi could be said to be an unreliable narrator–we’re never clear on whether we can believe him or not. His journey informs the narrative, and allows us to explore a world we may never experience ourselves, but that is extraordinary in its own way.