Piranesi - book cover
  • Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Published : 28 Sep 2021
  • Pages : 272
  • ISBN-10 : 1635577802
  • ISBN-13 : 9781635577808
  • Language : English


New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction
World Fantasy Awards Finalist

The instant New York Times bestselling novel from the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic book set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

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.

For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Editorial Reviews

"[Piranesi] flooded me, as the tides flood the halls, with a scouring grief, leaving gleaming gifts in its wake… rich, wondrous, full of aching joy and sweet sorrow." ―The New York Times Book Review

"A novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine." ―The New Yorker

"Piranesi astonished me. It is a miraculous and luminous feat of storytelling, at once a gripping mystery, an adventure through a brilliant new fantasy world, and a deep meditation on the human condition: feeling lost, and being found. I already want to be back in its haunting and beautiful halls!" ―Madeline Miller, New York Times Bestselling Author of CIRCE

"Unforgettable - surely one of the most original works of fiction this season. It drops you into a mind-bending fantasy world, a vast labyrinth with infinite rooms and seas that sweep into halls and up staircases with the tides. … It's a hypnotic tale that you can devour in a day (and probably will; it's that hard to put down)." ―AARP

"Piranesi is a high-quality page-turner-even the most leisurely reader will probably finish it off in a day-but its chief pleasure is immersion in its strange and uncannily attractive setting. . . Establishing that sense of totality-and the feeling of peacefulness that accompanies it-is Ms. Clarke's standout feat." ―Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"Could Piranesi match [the hype]? I'm delighted to say it has, with Clarke's singular wit and imagination still intact in a far more compressed yet still captivating tale you'll want to delve into again right after you read its sublime last sentence." ―The Boston Globe

"Piranesi is a gorgeous, spellbinding mystery that gently unravels page by page. Precisely the sort of book that I love wordlessly handing to someone so they can have the pleasure of uncovering its secrets for themselves. This book is a treasure, washed up upon a forgotten shore, waiting to be discovered." ―Erin Morgenstern, NYT bestselling author of THE STARLESS SEA and THE NIGHT CIRCUS

"A short and beautiful novel that reads like a poem, not in its use of language (which is very accessible) but rather in its cumulative effect of expressing an emotion and state of being that is inexpressible. It's a strange and lovely read." ―Buzzfeed

"What a world Susanna Clarke conjures into being, what a tick-tock-tick-tock of reveals, what a pure protagonist, what a morally-squalid supporting cast, what beauty, tension and restraint, and what a pitch-perfect ending. Piranesi is an exquisite puzzle-box far, far bigger on the inside than it is on the outside." ―David Mitchell, New York Times bestselling author of CLOUD ATLAS

"Destined to become a work of classic fantasy." ―...

Readers Top Reviews

MeemsJohn SmithGodot
... I feel like I’ve been party to an Emperor’s new clothes type scam. I don’t get it, I don’t like it, I feel like I’ve been duped into paying for the book of the Century whilst in the COVID loo roll queue.. Obviously me, as it has marvellous reviews.
I don’t know what to make of it at all but I read it over a couple of days - me, who can’t focus on anything lately - and it nibbled away at my mind with half forgotten memories, questions, associations, connections with its mish mash of historical & current cultural streams. Interesting, absorbing, & unlike anything else I’ve read - bit Iain Banks, Life of Pi, House of Crosse & Keys, Lion Witch Wardrobe, Alice, I Robot, magical realism/Murakami, dystopian, modern detective - it blurs lines, it’s current, it gets your mind engaged and working without you realising, it’s not difficult to read and begs for rereading - themes of charisma, control, identity, memory v reality, coercive control and more, make it irresistibly thought provoking - and it’s really well written. A book that stays with you after reading. That’s where art lies. Gave it to my eldest (in 20s) to read, they absolutely loved it - didn’t get the same references I did at all but threw up fresh perspective. Fascinating.
A. Joshua Sims
I just finished a wonderful book by Susanna Clarke, “Piranesi" named for Giovanni Battista's "Piranesi and the Three-Dimensional Labyrinth". The book is an allegory and a love-song to life. It begins with childhood and an open mind. By our twenties we start to search for answers. At mid-life, if we are lucky, we discover the beauty of the world again, and for some, try to rediscover ourselves. Often familiar with our earlier life, but often in awe of who we once were, as if who we were is some distant relative. Scattered through out the novel are reference points that guide the reader into our youngest selves. A statue of Mr. Tumnus, from the Chronicles of Narnia for example, with a finger to his lips, as if to ask us not to tell, or not to ask. But perhaps my favorite of all comes at the end. From an old childhood rhyme about magic places. In my nursery rhyme book there was an image of a child in robes, walking through the dark with nothing but a lantern to guide them. “ How many miles to Babylon? Threescore miles and ten. Can I get there by candle-light? Yes and back again.” Can I return to my childhood self? Yes and back again.
Richard Seltzer
Weird. I was tempted to read this because I loved her humorous and insightful dealings with magic in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This is a short and confusing journey through a labyrinthine alternate world. The power of the prose and the clues that teasingly almost make sense of what is going on compelled me to keep reading even when I had no idea at all what was going on. Maybe someday the meaning of this story will suddenly dawn on me and I'll think it is brilliant. For now I'm simply puzzled, but pleasantly so.
Rennie Walker
Firstly, this is a "strange" story. How strange? Hmm. Consider if H.P. Lovecraft had an imagination of massive goodness and gentleness to partner with his skill at grandeur. That strange. Or, if the lyrics to A Whiter Shade of Pale" were expanded into a cohesive, novel-length, narrative. That analogy too might work. Consider your own appetite for "strange" before you jump in to buy and begin. This story became truly entrancing for me. A young man, Piranesi, (though that is not the name on his birth certificate, but a name given to him by the Other) lives in the House, a vast labyrinth of halls and corridors and staircases, filled with exquisite marble statues. Piranesi leads a simple life; he fishes, dries seaweed for soup and fuel, maps and memorizes the tides that at times course through the House, walks the halls in reverence, and keeps a journal, according to his own calendar, of what he observes and feels and comes to know. Twice a week, for one hour only, he has an appointment with the man known as the Other. The Other is always dressed smartly in suits and a tie. Piranesi is dressed in the rags that remain of the clothes he must have worn when he arrived at the House. Piranesi dresses his hair with seashells and seaweed. Piranesi does not know where the Other comes from or goes to outside these two weekly appointments, but believes, at least in the beginning, the Other to also live in the House. Piranesi respects the Other but is also wary of him. For the Other warns that Piranesi will go mad or be in other dangers if he does not do what the Other wants. Piranesi researches, his memories and his journals and his thoughts, and reflects that maybe it is the Other who is mad, and not he. And so ... this simple life carries on ... until there are messages left for Piranesi from an intruder, and signs of an intruder's presence. The Other warns the young man that the new presence is a mortal danger to him. Susanna Clarke's storytelling language is stately, grand, as befitting the realm in which the story takes place. She uses a language full of descriptions of statues minutely observed, loved and adored. Piranesi speaks the same language, reverence at being in the presence of the magnificence of the House. The story unfolds. There is action. Twists and turns. Then dangers. But, who is the dangerous one for Piranesi; the Other, or, the intruder? Returning to strangeness for a moment. By the end of the first few pages I was both bored and irritated. Thirty or forty pages further on I was captivated. This is NOT a "pulse-pounding page turner"! In fact, it is difficult even to ascribe a genre to it. Then, I reached a point I turned the pages as fast as I could (kindle "pages"). Hah! It is so refreshing to read something so different and that is so exquisitely plotted out and well wri...

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