Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Bruce N H

Active Member
Hey all,

Has anyone read the book Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell)? I just picked it up and have only read the first dozen or so pages, but it seems really intriguing. So far all I know is that it is set in a possibly infinitely large mansion, with only two characters. So far the main character is telling how he's been exploring the mansion. It's a real mystery where this is going, but I'm hooked.



Staff member
I did not realize she has written other books, but I am intrigued; I really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.

Bruce N H

Active Member
She also has a book of short stories set in the JS&MN universe, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.
I got it from the library once but didn't get hooked right away, so I got distracted by other things and soon it was due back to the library. Looking at her bibliography she has additional short stories that are unrelated to JS&MN (hmm, one set in the Neil Gaiman Sandman universe) but no other full novels aside from JS&MN and this new one.



YES! I loved it so much!

We listened to the audio book on a long road trip. I think that the reader, Chiwetel Ejiofor, did a superb interpretive job. In fact, I suspect that I might not have enjoyed it as much if I had read the text myself.

It's got so many connections to the Platonic philosophical tradition, and she alludes to that tradition as seen in many other literary works, like Narnia. Her world building was just as skillfully done here as in Jonathan Strange. The ending did not disappoint. I kept expecting a let down as the more evocative opening chapters gave way to more and more explanation. But it only got better the more explanation we received.

I highly recommend it, though having a strong background in the great books tradition will greatly increase enjoyment of Piranesi.


New Member
One of the best books I have read since LOTR! Extremely hard not to give spoilers, but here goes:

"Piranesi", the protagonist / narrator / POV character is exceptionally well characterised. He is intelligent, resourceful, industrious, persistent; he is humble, empathetic, respectful, generous, grateful; he is charmingly ingenuous and naïf, always ready to believe the best of anyone and in any situation. His critical faculties are not easily aroused. He takes things on face value and is reluctant to ask awkward questions. He knows that Piranesi is probably not his name, but accepts it as the name by which 'The Other' calls him. His knowledge of the parts of the house that he has explored – and they are extensive – is encyclopaedic.

Piranesi records his observations and thoughts in a series of journals which he meticulously maintains and indexes. The names he gives to the years and to the rooms and statues in the House are charmingly whimsical.

It may not be apparent at first reading, but there is something strange about Piranesi, wrong even. Piranesi apparently knows nothing outside of The House. Yet on the very first page, in the description of the first statue he mentions, he recognises that it is of a woman carrying a beehive, and knows what bees are. How does he know this? There are no bees in The House. Similarly he identifies another statue as depicting two kings playing chess. How does he know this? Could these things be weaknesses in the plot? No – they hint at a cognitive dissonance of which Piranesi, for all his obvious intelligence, seems unaware. They are flags to us readers, warning us that all is not what it seems.