“Once, men and women were able to turn themselves into eagles and fly immense distances. They communed with rivers and mountains and received wisdom from them. They felt the turning of the stars inside their own minds. My contemporaries did not understand this. They were all enamoured with the idea of progress and believed that whatever was new must be superior to what was old. As if merit was a function of chronology! But it seemed to me that the wisdom of the ancients could not have simply vanished. Nothing simply vanishes. It’s not actually possible.”
From the outset the premise of the book appealed to me – a person who wanders empty halls and courtyards, who notes down journal entries and sustains himself with catches of fish and uses dried seaweed to mend things. Who is he and why is he roaming a house filled with statues and human remains? It’s intriguing and I was hooked from the very first page.
Piranesi lives in the House made of a labyrinth of halls filled with statues and tides that sweep through at regular intervals. He doesn’t remember anything other than this place. Piranesi is a man whose circumstances of a solitary life are interrupted by just one mysterious visitor, a man who meets him on a set day and bears occasional gifts. They try and work out and learn The Great and Secret Knowledge.
»The beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.«
Until one day, another intruder tries to find him and the story takes a fascinating turn. I won’t spoil it of course, it’s brilliant and very imaginative and I urge you to read it!
The narrative is captivating and the exploration of the nature of solitude moving and gripping, and the mystery never lets up until the satisfying ending.
The Book in three words: mesmerizing, tender and emotional
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.
About the author
Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham in 1959. A nomadic childhood was spent in towns in Northern England and Scotland. She was educated at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and has worked in various areas of non-fiction publishing, including Gordon Fraser and Quarto. In 1990, she left London and went to Turin to teach English to stressed-out executives of the Fiat motor company. The following year she taught English in Bilbao.
She returned to England in 1992 and spent the rest of that year in County Durham, in a house that looked out over the North Sea. There she began working on her first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
From 1993 to 2003, Susanna Clarke was an editor at Simon and Schuster’s Cambridge office, where she worked on their cookery list. She has published seven short stories and novellas in US anthologies. One, “The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse,” first appeared in a limited-edition, illustrated chapbook from Green Man Press. Another, “Mr Simonelli or The Fairy Widower,” was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award in 2001.
She lives in Cambridge with her partner, the novelist and reviewer Colin Greenland.