Piranesi

Susanna Clarke. Bloomsbury, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63557-563-7
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. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/10/2020
Release date: 09/15/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-1-63557-564-4
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