Sixteen years after the publication of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, her 2004 award-winning, magical and mysterious alternative history debut novel, Susanna Clarke is back with another dazzling tale.
Piranesi, Clarke’s second novel, is a slim tome compared to her first, but similarly, it is another literary page-turner set an alternate reality. This time, her protagonist is not an 19th-century magician, but just a man, with a strange name, who lives in a strange place that seems unlike any reality humans have encountered before. This man, Piranesi, lives in a grand labyrinth he calls the “House,” which is filled with statues he speaks to. Though he can remember living nowhere else, Piranesi obsessively keeps track of the House, including its many halls and rooms, the human remains that he finds within them, and the tidewaters that flood the House and threaten to drown him.
Piranesi’s only human interactions are with a man he refers to as “The Other.” The Other is often away, but when he regularly meets with Piranesi, he asks for assistance in his constant search for “A Great and Secret Knowledge” that he believes is hidden within the House.
As Piranesi records his daily life and activities in his detailed journal entries, he begins to notice inconsistencies in The Other’s behavior, as well as inconsistencies in his own journals, prompting Piranesi to question what he really knows about his world and the possible existence of living other people.
If you love to solve puzzles, love literary fiction, or if you are just looking for something off the beaten path, pick up Piranesi, suspend your disbelief for a short while, and be prepared to be a-mazed!