It was hard to know what to expect from Piranesi, the long (long!) awaited second novel from Susanna Clarke. Its predecessor (Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell) was sprawling, crammed with footnotes, and widely beloved. Piranesi, on the other hand, runs just 200-odd pages, styled as straightforward journal entries of a man who lives in a house so large it has its own weather systems.
The titular narrator, Piranesi, lives in the house almost entirely alone, besides a man he calls the Other, whom he meets with twice a week.
The obvious question is: how did he get there?
But before long, other questions emerge: who is the Other? Is there someone else in the house? Is Piranesi’s simple life of solitude in danger?
I must admit, I wasn’t hooked from the beginning. I’d preemptively shrugged Piranesi off as a light fantasy, good for fans of Erin Morgenstern (nothing wrong with that, of course, but nothing special, either).
Then, about halfway through, the story took a turn I did not expect, and by the end I was a complete convert.
This is a peculiar and enigmatic book, one that raises philosophical and psychological questions I would never have expected from its length and blurb. I truly relished the opportunity to spend time with a narrator who was unreliable but not unlikeable.
There is no doubt that the wait was worth it, for this carefully crafted sophomore offering from Clarke.
Buy Piranesi on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)