Book #24

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.

I have been so overwhelmed by this book that I’ve been unable to write a review for three days. I haven’t been able to start a new book either, which is almost unheard of for me. This book has affected me so incredibly that my mind is still full of endless rooms and rising tides.

It will do no good for me to describe the plot or characters here. Instead, some advice: 

You may be tempted to give up on this novel at the beginning. Do not do this. You’re initially thrown into an incomprehensible world with an incomprehensible narrator; an impossible state of confusion and disorientation. You may feel you’re going nowhere, you will feel lost. Keep going.

Clarke will cover you in a shroud embroidered with question marks. She will slowly remove the shroud; you will begin to see shadows taking shape, but you’ll be unable to clearly discern what they mean. Don’t panic - once the shroud is almost removed completely, you will begin to see Piranesi’s world for exactly what it is.

The whole experience has twisted my brain into a shape it has never been in before. Clarke’s skill here is monumental - her use of metaphor, her world-building, her atmosphere, her ability to communicate her oddities in a mystical yet forbidding way. I was astounded, I was compelled, I was irrevocably intrigued, I was claustrophobic and  (pun intended) all at sea.

This is a puzzle, a macabre riddle which cannot be solved by one solitary person. You need Piranesi, you need the Other, you need 16. 

May your Paths be safe, your Floors unbroken and may the House fill your eyes with Beauty.