Piranesi By Susanna Clarke

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. Piranesi

(4.25) Worth the hype 163557563X The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite. aka The Mind of Ellias is broken; his Soul fucking fullfilled!!!!!!!!!!!!

The way I cannot begin to express or even put into mere words on how this book made me feel....literally immeasureable and inconsolable!!!!

It honestly felt like a missing part of a dream, sequenced away to savor and find for later. This missing piece? A callback to that wonderful and comforting nostalgia- our childhood's wildest untamed dreams and imagination, back to when anything was possible. Dear reader, this was a fucking feast of unfettered joy and a brimming capsule of a callback to our childhood selves in its purest and most undulated form. The best of the best. Maybe perhaps, we still can do all the things we imagined ourselves to be and want to do. All because of this said book? Hell fucking yeah.

A new brilliant favorite. Piranesi, you and the House will always have my heart.

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Watch our full thoughts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUz8A... 163557563X A genre-blending, memorable, and melancholic standalone novel.

This will be a short review. Writing the review for Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is not an easy task. It has taken me five days to write this review, and you might notice that it’s a relatively short review. There are two reasons for this. First, this is a short novel; I’m sure you can finish reading this book within 3-4 hours. Second, it’s due to spoiler reasons; before I started reading Piranesi, I received plenty of advice saying that it’s better to read this book without knowing anything about it. Don’t check any reviews, just dive into it, and I have to agree with this advice. So I’ll keep this review as brief, effective, and spoiler-free as I can.

“Perhaps even people you like and admire immensely can make you see the World in ways you would rather not.”

If you want to know what the story is about, the official blurb did a great job of telling the premise without spoiling anything. And yes, the book is indeed as bizarre as the premise sounds. But this is what made Piranesi difficult for me to review, and it’s also one of the main charms of the book. A huge part of my enjoyment and admiration with Piranesi is attained through every step of navigating the World with Piranesi. The sense of discovery is key, and it must not be tainted. Readers are plunged into Piranesi’s house with infinite rooms, endless corridors, and I won’t lie, the first quarter can be a challenge to read. I had zero ideas what’s going on in the first 50 pages, and in a different situation or reading mood, there’s a good chance I would’ve put it on the DNF pile. But based on what I’ve heard from other readers doing the read-along with me, this is normal and to be expected. Discovering all the mystery together with Piranesi was a delight, and Clarke’s prose—despite the confusing parts, for me—was engaging throughout the whole book.

“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”

I loved Piranesi. The first quarter was hard to get into, but everything after that was wave after wave of revelations and thrill. For such a short book, Piranesi packed a lot of food for thoughts. It’s different from many books I usually read, and it’s a novel that will stick with me. Piranesi has won and been nominated for many awards, and it’s well-deserved. That’s all I can say in this review. Believe me, if you’re interested in this book already, skip reading any review—mine included—and just read the book. Explore everything with Piranesi. Learn about kindness and innocence again together with him.

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163557563X A second fantasy novel from the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — finally!! It's excellent, and VERY different from Jonathan Strange (for one thing, it's less than 250 pages). Review first posted on Fantasy Literature (along with my co-reviewer Bill's excellent review, which I reference a couple of times below):

I have to say I was a smidgen disappointed to get to the end of Piranesi and not have seen a single footnote (I’m quite fond of all of the quasi-scholarly, tongue-in-cheek footnotes in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). But that was my only disappointment with this transcendent novel.

An etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 18th century Italian artist

Piranesi, who narrates this story through his journal entries, is the sole living inhabitant of a labyrinthine, half-ruined building he calls the House. He also calls it the World, which in a very real sense it is for him: he has no memory of living anywhere except in the House, which is an endless series of halls and vestibules, with no entrances or exits, where ocean waves and floods beset the lower levels but also provide him with life-preserving food, tools, and fuel. It’s reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges’ The Library of Babel, except with awe-inspiring statues in every room rather than (near)infinite books, as well as Borges’ “The House of Asterion.” Piranesi has found a baker’s dozen of human skeletons in the House, which he religiously cares for, but the only other living person he has seen there is the man he calls the Other, who visits with him briefly twice a week and irritably quizzes him on his explorations of the House.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Piranesi — the character as well as the book itself — is a riddle (who is he?), wrapped in a mystery (why is he in the House, and what does the Other have to do with it?), inside an enigma (what is the House?). I felt compelled to pencil notes in the margins of my brand-new hardcover copy of Piranesi (“Minotaurs!”) and mark key passages. Note-taking did have the benefit of slowing me down and making me think more deeply about the layered mysteries, the symbols and allusions and ironies. Piranesi’s and (when it’s revealed) the Other’s names, like Clarke’s suggestive epigraphs at the beginning of the novel, are clues that readers may or may not want to pursue before getting deeper into the book. (I would absolutely love to be a student in Bill’s class on Piranesi!)

For as Bill comments, there’s a delight in simply inhabiting the House with Piranesi. It’s a beautifully described world, and Piranesi is a wonderful companion, brimful with good-hearted innocence, trust, and a joyous sense of wonder. His harmony with nature and his selflessness are inspiring, as when he gives up a large chunk of his precious store of dried seaweed (which is both food and fuel to him) so that a pair of albatrosses can build a nest.
It approximated to three days’ fuel. This was no insignificant amount and I knew that I might be colder because I had given it away. But what is a few days of feeling cold compared to a new albatross in the World?
To get too caught up in the details and the whys and hows of the ever-present, looming mysteries is to risk diluting the ability to immerse yourself in Piranesi’s hauntingly beautiful life and world. When the answers begin to be disclosed, it’s fascinating but at the same time a dose of the mundane, bringing the ineffable, at least partially, down to earth. The latter part of the book shifts tone to more of a suspense novel, with some heart-pounding moments of tension and danger. But then, there’s a marvelous ending that brings us full circle, back to that initial sense of wonder and awe.
In my mind are all the tides, their seasons, their ebbs and their flows. In my mind are all the halls, the endless procession of them, the intricate pathways. … The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.
It’s a testament to the power of Clarke’s storytelling that those lines almost brought me to tears. Piranesi is an extraordinary and thoughtful novel with radiant writing, illuminating our own lives. 163557563X Delightful. An antidote to the trend of self-serious writing that there's so much of recently. It's a fun and easy read that's compelling, but gets to a depth many less entertaining books wish they could arrive at. Anything involving impossible architecture has me hooked. This was a gift from a friend, and I think I'd recommend it too. 163557563X

read Piranesi

Umm, is that it?

Ok, let me start by first apologizing to everyone who loves this book. Obviously, I'm an outlier and my thoughts here are decidedly in the minority. So if you feel differently, please don't throw rotten vegetables at me.

Going into Piranesi, I had heard nothing but great things about it. How it's riveting and unputdownable. How no one had ever seen a story like this before. How the twist is going to blow my mind. Unfortunately, none of those turned out to be true for me.

For one thing—and please forgive for saying this—I just don't find endless descriptions of halls, statues, vestibules, tides, fish, and birds to be that interesting. I know, I can't believe I just admitted such a thing publicly. But that is the majority of this book! It was tolerable for the first thirty pages, when I worked hard to read and reread each description slowly so that I may keep straight every hall, statue, vestibule, tide, fish, and bird encountered. But I soon grew tired and just proceeded to read without retaining.

And it wouldn't be a big deal if the only issue with this book is its excessive descriptions. After all, I've read plenty of books like that and still eked out some enjoyment. But here, the descriptions are in combination with writing I couldn't make heads or tails of. I'll be honest, I barely understood most of the sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, no matter how much I concentrated or how many times I reread it.

So what's the problem? Well, for me, I just don't see a point to reading like that. When the writing is such that it isn't meant to be understood or remembered, but rather just skimmed to reach the end, then why am I even reading it? Sure, I wiled away some time turning the pages, but I ultimately come away unchanged, and for me, that is the worst result a story can achieve.

For such a short book, this sure was a slog. Lots of readers report reading it in one sitting because they couldn't put it down. It took me three days of dedicated reading time to get through it. Every time I put it down, I had no urge to pick it back up. The only reason I kept going is the promise of that great twist.

And here, my expectations were wrong too. For me, a twist means that the story is leading the reader in one direction, but then a development happens that takes the story in a completely different, unforeseen direction. Thus, the reader is surprised. But that didn't happen here. This book clearly leads you in one direction, and the reveal is exactly what you would expect from it.

Perhaps if you didn't know the book's genre going in (not sure how you'd be able to swing that though), this development would come as a surprise. But it's a fairly common concept. So to prevent the reader from figuring things out early, the book is written such that it maximumly obscures everything. Keeping the reader in this haze-like, confused state for as long as possible is the goal of this story.

And when we do reach the end, no actual explanation of the logistics are given. The how's and why's are just handwaved away. I don't mind being taken for a ride, but the destination had better be worth it. And it wasn't here. I expected creative and original, but I only ended up with derivative and unsatisfying.

I know not every book is for every reader, and this one definitely isn't for me. I marvel at stories that take complex and intricate ideas and turn them into something easily understood. This is the opposite. It takes a fairly simple concept that's been done many times before and somehow manages to turn it into the most obscure and confounding tale. No, thank you. 163557563X Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Strange, unique, and enjoyable. To be honest, starting didn't go well for me as I couldn't connect myself to the story or the world. But later it turned into a captivating story. Impressive worldbuilding, engaging characters, and excellent storytelling. It's a definitely unique and enjoyable read.

It does not matter that you do not understand the reason. You are the Beloved Child of the House. Be comforted.

Strange beautiful story. 163557563X Well, I guess it is time to say that Susanna Clarke's slender little PIRANESI is my favorite novel of possibly the last five years.

I could write spoilery essays upon essays about its use of metaphor for ambition, identity, religion.

I'm so delighted.

If my novella Opal drove you batty, it might also drive you batty for similar reasons, but personally, it gave me everything I wanted.

I don't want to say too much more because the beauty of this puzzle box is in the opening, but highly recommended (with an exhortation to persist through the confusion of the first 10 pages or so). 163557563X I almost DNFed this one, and maybe I should have, but in the end I wanted to be able to fully review this book and I don’t think it’s fair to do that only having read half of it.

This is a book that falls into a category I’ve come to describe as for A Certain Kind of Reader®. Maybe that’s a phrase you’ve heard before, but for me it namely means that most readers will not like it, but a segment of them will LOVE it. If you’re a Bestsellers reader, you probably won’t like this. If you’re a Book Club reader, you probably won’t like this. If you’re a Genre reader (fantasy, thriller, etc.) you probably won’t like this.

Who will like this? Readers who do not mind wandering around aimlessly through the first 100 pages of a 250 page book. Also, most likely readers who enjoy the types of literary fiction that can be alienating to the average person. I’m not trying to be dismissive of these books, I read and like some of them! But I‘ll sheepishly admit that I sometimes feel like I’m too dumb to understand other ones, and I wonder if some are so abstract and inaccessible by design.

So what’s the deal with Piranesi? Basically there’s a guy in tunnels? Or caves? That’s just incurably confused and doesn’t know it. He’s unreliable as a narrator, but he’s also extremely boring. The labyrinth he finds himself in is somewhat more interesting, but he spends most of his time studying tides or talking to birds, then writing it all down. Reading this was a good deal more frustrating than it was fascinating for me, unfortunately. I got about halfway and honestly did not want to keep reading. Yes, things are eventually uncovered and revealed, but the journey to get there was just nooooot worth it.

I can’t remember reading a book so short that was also way too long. I saw someone mention this should be a novella—I fully support that! You could cut the length in half and essentially lose nothing important. I wish I had read the author’s other book so I could compare this to it, but I have not. And based off of the length of that one and how long this felt, I don’t know if I’m up for it. Additionally, Piranesi was compared to Madeline Miller—I do not see that comparison AT ALL. I loved Circe and The Song of Achilles and do not understand what the two have in common, except, maybe Clarke references Greek mythology? The writing styles are completely different.

That said, Piranesi continues to have a really high rating on Goodreads, so who knows! Maybe check out some other reviews as there are plenty of positive ones to choose from. I’m sure Susanna Clarke is doing something very unique and probably clever here, but I’m just not clicking with it. Maybe you’re exactly this book’s Certain Kind of Reader.

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks! 163557563X
“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”
First of all, for those who - like me - read the blurb for this book, noted the mention of “the house with the ocean imprisoned in it” and automatically assumed that “Piranesi” has something to do with piranhas (because ocean = fish, right?) — yeah, that’s certainly not what the story is about. Regrettably, there’s not a single piranha in sight.
This is like a dream, slow, strange and intensely atmospheric, unbelievably immersive and engrossing. Imagine a labyrinthine partially ruined “House” with endless procession of interconnected enormous Halls and Vestibules, with bottom levels flooded by the ocean somehow held inside, and top layers covered in thick clouds, with enormous marble staircases covered by clashing Tides, and thousands upon thousands of marble statues. No entrances or exits, just the House that is the World, both decrepitude and perfection.
“I am determined to explore as much of the World as I can in my lifetime. To this end I have travelled as far as the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West, the Eight-Hundred-and-Ninetieth Hall to the North and the Seven-Hundred-and-Sixty-Eighth Hall to the South. I have climbed up to the Upper Halls where Clouds move in slow procession and Statues appear suddenly out of the Mists. I have explored the Drowned Halls where the Dark Waters are carpeted with white water lilies. I have seen the Derelict Halls of the East where Ceilings, Floors – sometimes even Walls! – have collapsed and the dimness is split by shafts of grey Light.”

It’s not a dead world. There are birds and fish and remains of thirteen humans, and two living ones - the Other, a man who visits our narrator for hour-long appointments twice a week on the search for mysterious Knowledge, a man clearly of the world that is similar to our own, and our narrator who the Other refers to as Piranesi, although “Piranesi” knows that it’s not his name.
“Since the World began it is certain that there have existed fifteen people. Possibly there have been more; but I am a scientist and must proceed according to the evidence. Of the fifteen people whose existence is verifiable, only Myself and the Other are now living.”

Piranesi has no memory of ever being anywhere else. He has always been here, or at least from 2012 and until the Year the Albatross Came to the South-Western Halls. He is the Beloved Child of the House, worshipful of its beauty and kindness, grateful for the survival it allows him, full of wondrous innocence and remarkable naïveté to the point where you fervently hope that he indeed loses some of that innocence before it’s too late. And you know that things are wrong. You know he has not always been here. You know from everything he refers to that his world used to be much bigger than the enormous half-derelict labyrinthine House.
“I realised that the search for the Knowledge has encouraged us to think of the House as if it were a sort of riddle to be unravelled, a text to be interpreted, and that if ever we discover the Knowledge, then it will be as if the Value has been wrested from the House and all that remains will be mere scenery.
The sight of the One-Hundred-and-Ninety-Second Western Hall in the Moonlight made me see how ridiculous that is. The House is valuable because it is the House. It is enough in and of Itself. It is not the means to an end.”
It’s the story of kindness and gratitude. It’s the story of loneliness and solitude and isolation. It’s the story of reverence and contemplation, ingenuity and survival, innocence and evil, curiosity and contentment. It’s a story rooted in living in the present because the past is nonexistent, untroubled by the questions of identity, resistant to egotistical impulses - because Piranesi seems to know exactly who he is, the “Beloved Child of the House”. Even the harshest things that happen to him seem to have a silver lining through his attitude of acceptance and gratitude.
“It occurs to me that there are many other ideas that I understand perfectly, even though no such things exist in the World.”

Piranesi’s acceptance of his life is quietly unsettling, his innocence frustrating, his equanimity troubling, his obliviousness infuriating, his kindness at times disturbing, his adaptability admirable, and his content lack of curiosity puzzling. And the further you read the more your apprehension grows. The House is a sanctuary and a prison at the same time, both beckoning and terrifying at the same time. After all, his historical namesake Piranesi was known for his “Imaginary Prisons” etchings - no, not coincidental at all.
“Batter-Sea is not a word,’ I said at last. ‘It has no referent. There is nothing in the World corresponding to that combination of sounds.”

And so the entire story fluctuates between seductive and devastating, and remains quietly memorable. It’s a puzzle and a treasure, fragile yet powerful, and a meditation on life in a curiously small universe.

The point of this story for me was not the mystery of the house or of Piranesi’s identity; the clues are there and it’s not too hard to figure most of it out rather early on. No, the strength is the strange world that Clarke creates so vividly that I felt that I was walking the Halls and avoiding the Tides and listening to the messages the House sends and catching a glimpse of the Moon along with Piranesi. His hypnotic voice - the voice of the timeless scientist - transported me fully into this strange orderly confusion and left me spellbound. And that was the spell I did not want to end.

The magic exists. And somewhere there may be a place where you can finally be at peace. Maybe. Depending on what you can give up. Depending if you feel trapped or free in your own personal labyrinth.

Gentle and quiet and powerful.

4 stars.
“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”


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Also posted on my blog.