New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction
World Fantasy Awards Finalist
From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.
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.
For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Some authors think outside the box. With her second novel, Susanna Clarke thinks outside the room the box is in. A man called Piranesi lives in a fantastically sprawling building that goes on and on for miles. The bottommost floor is filled with an ocean, the topmost is sprinkled with clouds, and the rest is a maze of pillars, staircases, and exquisite marble statues. Clarke, the author of the delightful bestseller Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, turns this quirky notion into a thrilling and esoteric mystery. At first, we didn’t know what to think about the hero’s odd, heartbreakingly innocent first-person narration. But soon enough, we couldn’t put this strange story down. We wanted to figure out exactly who Piranesi is and how he ended up recording the tides and living on saltwater fish inside this surreal Escher painting of a home. We won’t spoil any more details about the captivating events and plot twists that unfold—the less you know about this unpredictable novel, the better.
Clarke wraps a twisty mystery inside a metaphysical fantasy in her extraordinary new novel, her first since 2004's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. The story unfolds as journal entries written by the eponymous narrator, who, along with an enigmatic master known as the Other (and 13 skeletons whom Piranesi regards as persons) inhabits the House, a vast, labyrinthine structure of statue-adorned halls and vestibules. So immense is the House that its many parts support their own internal climates, all of which Piranesi vividly describes ("I squeezed myself into the Woman's Niche and waited until I heard the Tides roaring in the Lower Halls and felt the Walls vibrating with the force of what was about to happen"). Meanwhile, the Other is pursuing the "Great and Secret Knowledge" of the ancients. After the Other worriedly asks Piranesi if he's seen in the house a person they refer to as 16, Piranesi's curiosity is piqued, and all the more so after the Other instructs him to hide. In their discussions about 16, it becomes increasingly clear the Other is gaslighting Piranesi about his memory, their relationship, and the reality they share. With great subtlety, Clarke gradually elaborates an explanatory backstory to her tale's events and reveals sinister occult machinations that build to a crescendo of genuine horror. This superbly told tale is sure to be recognized as one of the year's most inventive novels.
I found myself wanting to draw my own map of the labyrinth in the first part, wanting to shake Piranesi throughout, and looking for my own worlds in liminal spaces by the end.
A joy to read.
Amazing world building and fantasy collide with a philosophical story about identity, religion, and self perception. I cannot stress enough how beautiful the world the author created is. A must read!