Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of three Tides. This is something that happens only once every eight years.

Opening line

I have just finished Piranesi, a hauntingly beautiful novel by Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It is short, only 245 pages, but this only proves to emphasize that every word matters, from opening page to the perfect final lines.

Told entirely in journal entries, this is the story of a man called Piranesi, seemingly lost in a labyrinth of marble statues, sea-water filled halls and vast chambers, yet filled with child-like wonder and love for all that is around. Gradually, his world opens to the reader, while at the same time other forces start to intrude on his ordered existence to suggest that there is a mystery at the heart of all this that he doesn’t even know to investigate and darkness threatens to shatter the innocence.

It is a novel classified as fantasy or science fiction, and perhaps it is, but I found the magic more in the telling than the plot. The gentle play of words, the gentle unfolding, the final revelation. At times I wondered if it is meant to be a meditation on being lost in our own brains, whether through over-rumination or mental illness, or on being lost in our 21st century lives, rather than the plotted mystery it first appears to be. Regardless, there is one lesson to take away, one appropriate to our current holiday season: the importance of child-like wonder and appreciation. Something that is too easy to loose, to all or our detriment.

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

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5 thoughts on “Piranesi by Susanna Clarke”

    1. I honestly don’t know whether or not you’d like it, since it is contemporary, but there are some references to classical mythology and to Narnia. If you can get a library copy, it may be worth checking out.

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