I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading Piranesi. All I knew is that it was based on the Theseus story of the labyrinth and the Minotaur. What I did end up reading was the wildest ride I’ve had in a while.
Here’s More About Piranesi
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.
Ok, this is one of those books where you can’t talk too much about it otherwise you’ll give it away. It’s not a thriller, but there’s a strong mystery component in the story that you unravel as you read.
For a 250-page novel, I was not expecting to take a week to read it. I was expecting this to be just an average story that I will get read quickly and add to my read pile within a day or two. However, that’s not what you’re going to get here. This book is meaty with some really intensely beautiful prose. This was my first book from Susanna Clarke and after reading it, I have to say that it won’t be my last. The author was able to pack so much story into so few pages that it can’t even be considered a novella. No, this is a full blown novel that will whisk you away to a world that’s just so difficult to fathom. It was such a multi-layered story that you need to pay attention to otherwise you might find yourself as lost as Piranesi in the labyrinth. She also doesn’t give you any clues directly; it’s all subtle or underlying, so make sure to read everything she provides.
I was trying to think of comparative stories that felt like this one. The major one was The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. It was the feeling of worlds within worlds; a place right beyond a closed door or a path you never take. It made the story much more enchanting thinking about that, but at the same time it’s a world I probably never want to find myself in. It sounds enchanting when you’re reading about it, but if I found a way to the labyrinth, I would probably be freaked out.
The others were movies; Castaway with Tom Hanks and Memento. Castaway because Piranesi was pretty much alone the entire time and found friendships with the statues and bones he found there. Memento because of Piranesi’s memory stuff. The idea of being stranded in an alternate universe where you’re stuck in a literal maze with tons of different hallways, the bones of the dead, and statutes staring down at you is kind of freaky. I wish that I had much more info about the place; where it comes from, why it’s there, and what’s the point of the entire thing.
I think the only issue I had was the ending. While the entirety of the book felt like a luxurious story that I can take my time enjoying, the ending kind of came so abruptly I don’t think I had time to process before it was over. I wish there were a few other parts that were fleshed out more, but I also think it would have gotten in the way of the mysterious components of the story.
Overall, such a great read that took me completely by surprise. I can definitely see folks not liking this one very much, but from here, it was just one of the best stories I’ve read all year.