found out about the book Piranesi from a youtube video by Nightshade
talking about artist Jared Pike's Dreampools and was
immediately intrigued by the premise...
I've been through a reading dry spell that has lasted years
and I am always lamenting that I don't read as much as I
want to. I chalk it up to the task of sitting down and
focusing on one thing being nearly impossible for me without
some coaxing. But this book's concept lingered long enough
in my mind that I found time to dive in.
After obsessively trying to decide what medium I should
approach the book as (Audiobook? Digital? Physical? New?
Used? Any question to avoid the act of actually getting down
into the nitty gritty of Reading, I suppose) I finally just
impulsively downloaded the text onto my phone's book app. I
figured that if I read it on my phone, it'd serve as a
diversion from mindless scrolling on social media.
This surprisingly worked. On lunch breaks at work and low
energy days (and eventually just because I was pulled into
the world) I found myself happily reading and making steady
progress. So I guess this is how my digitally rotted brain
reads books now.
Anyway, here's the synopsis.
"Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is a literary page-turner set an
alternate reality. It's about a man, Piranesi, living in a
grand labyrinth that is filled with statues, beset by floods
and surrounded by celestial objects.
Piranesi carefully documents the world around him, including
the house's many halls, the tides and the human remains that
he finds. But indications of a stranger prompt Piranesi to
question what he knows about this world and threatens to
reveal the truths buried long ago."
The book has a first person perspective, which (I
think) isn't a lot of people's preference as far as
storytelling goes, but something I've always enjoyed. In my
opinion, there's something interesting about forcing one
perspective and having to paint a picture of reality through
that one flawed view. It also allows the reader to have an
interesting secondary role of putting things together that
the character might not.
The book reads like a mystery and following along the
character Piranesi as he works things out is a compelling
journey. He is initially not threatened by his strange
existence and acts completely native to these halls, but
eventually comes to realize there are major gaps in his
memory, revealed by looking back upon meticulous journal
entries he keeps. He cannot remember a time before he lived
in what he calls The House, which he reveres with a type of
I would be remiss to not mention Piranesi's namesake in this
review, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, who
was an Italian classical archaeologist, architect, and
artist. He is most known for his etchings of Rome and, more
relevant to this book, his oppressive, labyrinthine,
fictitious environments he calls his Imaginary Prisons. The
Prisons are enclosed, but ongoing interior spaces made up of
ancient architectural elements, which is a direct influence
to the book Piranesi, from the title and main character, to
the environment, and concept as a whole. Susanna Clarke
clearly fell in love with the concept, took it, and ran,
which I think is a beautiful way to celebrate and build upon
the ideas of artists that compel us.
There is a cruel reason for Piranesi's name, and as he
slowly uncovers why, he finds himself having trouble trying
to understand the circumstances of who he was, why he is
Piranesi now, and who he becomes once this context is
revealed to him. Witnessing that identity struggle is
heartbreaking and very powerful once he makes peace with it.
This book left an impression on me and I'll be thinking
about it for a long time. If you read this book,
email/message me to let me know what you think about it! If
you want to check it out, take a look at the
different places you can buy it here! If
you want to check it out and you're tight on cash, just
ask nicely in an email and I'll see what I can do ;)
"The Beauty of the House is
immeasurable; its Kindness infinite."
Thank you for reading.