Adult Fiction

Piranesi by Suzanna Clarke Review

Piranesi lives in a house of endless dimensions, its halls are labyrinthine, its lower levels oceans, and its roof is open to the sky. There are Southern, Northern, Eastern, and Western Halls, first, second, third, and fourth Halls — Halls that stretch out in endless numbers. The sound of water lapping against walls fills days and nights, tides rush up staircases into statue-filled halls. The House is a labyrinth and Piranesi its keeper. To Piranesi, the House is the world, and

“The House is valuable because it is the House. It is enough in and of Itself. It is not the means to an end.” 

The House displays qualities such as infinite kindness and wisdom. The House provides — seaweed, fish, and mussels for Piranesi to eat; seaweed for him to dry and burn during the cold winter months. It doesn’t sound like much, and, perhaps, it isn’t, but when has the abundance of stuff ever brought us happiness. Once, there were other inhabitants; Piranesi knows this because he tends to skeletons named the Biscuit-Box Man, the Concealed Person, and the People of the Alcove. His days are spent mapping out the tides and the never-ending collection of halls and in conversation with statues (who do not converse back, it’s not that kind of magical house). Readers wonder how Piranesi can know the meaning of words like ‘garden’ when the House has no gardens. Surely there is something amiss? At times, Piranesi grapples with his solitary existence, but his trust in the House is unshaken.

“It does not matter that you do not understand the reason. You are the Beloved Child of the House. Be comforted.
And I am comforted.” 

And then, Piranesi isn’t truly alone. There is the Other who is immaculately dressed where Piranesi’s style is marked by the absence of indoor plumbing. For all its Halls, the endless House is without a bathroom, laundry, or kitchens. The divide between Piranesi and the Other is immediately clear, even if it is less so to Piranesi, who is quick to trust and slow to question, taking the world at face value, including the Other’s words.

Piranesi is a book that begins like a journey; page by page, piece by piece, the story unfolds as the reader experiences the wonders of the House through Piranesi’s first-person lens. If your spacial-awareness is lacking like mine, then it may well take a few pages until you’ve oriented yourself in Piranesi’s world, but do not despair and definitely hang in there because this magical story is a ride so well worth it. The pace quickly builds as the mystery unfurls, re-furls, then comes together in a satisfying finale. In the end, the ending is like the House, which satisfies without providing all the answers. After all, magic isn’t about having all the answers. If we have all the answers, then it’s not magic.


Book: Piranesi
Published: Bloomsbury
Pages: 245
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Age Range: adult
Stars: 4.5/5

Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.


Discover what other readers thought by clicking on the links below.

Piranesi (2002) – Susanna Clarke – For the Love of Meg

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Review – Reading Untamed

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