A thought-provoking story that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.
Susannah Clarke is an English author. Piranesi is her second book after her debut novel, Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell won her the British Book Awards Newcomer of the Year, the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award.
It is the story of Piranesi, who lives in a world of halls and statues. He is surrounded by water with little shelter, tides come and go, and his only real company are the birds nesting among the statues. He eats seaweed and the fish he has caught, and the only person he ever sees is the Other, who comes to visit twice a week. Each day he adds to his journals, making records of the weather, what he eats, conversations with the Other and the tides. He looks after the bones of the Dead and takes them offerings of lilies and food.
One day messages appear on the floor, written with chalk. Who could have written them and are they to be trusted? Piranesi must decide who to believe. He searches for answers amongst his journals and from the birds. But will he discover the truth in time, and does he really want to know the truth?
As I began to read this story, I had so many questions about things that didn’t make sense: where did Piranesi come from, who is the Other, how does he know how to read and write, or the names of the statues? There seems to be so many holes in the story.
Piranesi is an interesting read. It took almost half the book to decide whether I liked it or not but by the end, I was hooked and totally invested in the well-being of the main character. I wondered whether this was pure fantasy or set in our future world. It kept me guessing as the truth was slowly revealed.
Haunting, mysterious, thought provoking, delightful and sad are just some of the words to describe this book. I found myself reflecting on the story way after I had finished.
My advice would be to persevere with Piranesi. Don’t give up too early. It brings up so many questions and would be a good novel for a book club discussion. There’s a need to talk about it with someone long after finishing it.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: September 2020