The Tale of Piranesi
Piranesi written by Susanna Clarke was published in 2020. The novel recently came to my attention when it popped up on several end of the year top books to read. I follow bloggers from across the world and have favorites in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. This book made the list on all. So even though the fantasy genre is one I don’t often read, Piranesi jumped to the front of the line.
To be honest, the book is a blend of approaches. Certainly fantasy with a bit of science fiction and mystery added. I categorize it as a fantasy mostly due to the wonderful descriptions given of the “house” or “world” Piranesi lives within. The science fiction piece stems from the notion of parallel worlds. And the mystery, well that is for the reader to discover. Along with Piranesi himself.
For the majority of the book, only two living characters appear. The protagonist, Piranesi, is a young man living off the middle floors of a great house. He fishes and harvests seaweed from the lower levels and collects fresh water from the cloud filled upper rooms. Piranesi fills his days cataloguing the multitude of marble statues and tracking the tides.
He also assists The Other with his scientific research. The Other is a much older gentleman. His research is as old as time. He seeks immortality. As the only other living person in the world, Piranesi is quite attached to The Other.
Clarke surprised this reader with two additional characters well into the book. Both lead Piranesi forward albeit while facing danger. Both from within and without. Piranesi develops into one of the most compelling main characters encountered in recent reads. A tormented man shining with virtuousness. His outlook on life remains upright even after grappling with extraordinary happenings.
British author Susanna Clarke is new to me. One of my offspring is currently reading her first book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In a world of authors churning out manuscripts, this coincidence would not even register. However, Clarke does not fit that description. Her writing is compelling and thought provoking.
Books affect people differently. I learned this long ago in a high school literature class. Piranesi should be included in such a class. Or a book club. There is so much to discuss! But I do not want to spoil this fantastic novel. I highly recommend Piranesi and I hope the main character leaves a positive impact on you as well. There is much evil in this world. We need to balance it with goodness from within.