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Piranesi (2020)

by Susanna Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,2841255,228 (4.22)161
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and waterlilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims? Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous. The Beauty of the House is immeasurable ; its Kindness infinite.… (more)
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    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (hubies)
    hubies: Piranesi is not scary, but in both books there is this mystifying, unpeopled world of impossible (and perhaps infinite) house-like space. Also: cryptic diary entries, unstable mind, short film as a plot device.
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» See also 161 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
(66) This was delightful. I read 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell' ages ago and loved it and didn't realize she had even written anything else after that wrist-bender. 'Piranesi' is a short novel about an a young child-like man in an alternate world - a seemingly endless decaying mansion which is flooded by an ocean and filled with statues. There are birds there, and some skeletons, and 'the Other' a person in shiny new suits who meets with Piranesi twice a week and provides him with things like fishing nets, cameras, and sneakers. He seems to have a computer or a cell phone. Does Piranesi not see that he is being held captive? . . . Aaah no - instead Piranesi considers himself the 'beloved child of the house' and seems relatively content albeit heartbreakingly lonely. What a creative premise and the execution is quite good without being too clever.

The novel felt a bit like YA lit in that the protagonist is very child-like, so much so that I gave it to my 12 year old to read. However, there are adult classical allusions and some language which keep it from being an entirely YA novel. I loved how the story unspooled from the journal entries. The dramatic tension and story-telling was excellent. I think I would have liked more back story into the 'people of the alcove' perhaps. Jonathan Strange was sooo long and this in some ways was too short. But in general, count me a fan. Grab this for a long plane ride; a quiet weekend; a vacation - it is very entertaining. ( )
  jhowell | Dec 8, 2021 |
1 1/2 stars
This book was well written but I'm in the very unpopular opinion that I pretty much hated it. I hardly ever DNF books and if this book wasn't so short, took about 3 hours to read I'd have DNF it. The only thing I knew about the book going into it was it's supposed to be based on a myth. That sounds just up my alley in the past month I've read 2 books and a trilogy based on Greek myths and loved them all. So based on myth, with a Satyr on the cover maybe it's about Dionysus. I'd love that. It's not about Dionysus.

After reading the book I searched through reviews and everybody seems to love it, so you might too. This book just wasn't for me. I found one of review that I agree with 100%, "Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is a 245 page book that should really have been about 45 pages." I mean it's a decent idea and if Ray Bradbury had written it as a short story I probably would loved the 30-40 minute read. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
I really enjoyed Piranesi. It’s a short and fast read (only 250 pages), but one of those books that starts out making the reader wonder, “What is going on here?!” and then slowly fills in the puzzle pieces until the reader can start to guess what the picture is. I usually have fun with those types of stories.

The book is written in a journal entry format. The entries are from a man in his thirties whose entire world consists of an enormous house with hundreds of halls that are full of different types of statues. The lower level of the house has flooded and there’s a constant sound of crashing waves. There are only 15 people who have ever lived, and all but 2 of them are dead. One is an older man he refers to as “The Other”. The second is himself, and The Other calls him Piranesi.

When the book first started, I had so many questions and so much speculation. I had fun guessing the answers as more clues were revealed. The first chapter was a little slow maybe, because it’s full of details to help us understand the world Piranesi lives in. In retrospect, it’s a little unrealistic that he decided to write all those details in his journals on those random days. The info would presumably have already been in his journals from his earlier discoveries since this wasn’t new information to him, and his index would have allowed him to find the relevant entries as needed. Still, it’s a fairly short chapter and it does a good job painting the picture of the setting and starting the reader’s questions, then things get more interesting in the remaining chapters.

There were a couple minor things that were glossed over, but for the most part I thought the story made sense. I really liked the main character and I was wrapped up in the story. There are a lot of things I would have liked to know more about, and I think there would be room for more stories, but as far as I know this isn’t intended to be a series. It stands alone well and I was satisfied with how everything tied together and wrapped up.

For those who read the author’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, this book is really nothing at all like that one. Both books have a unique style, but they’re completely different types of styles. The stories are also written in a completely different manner, and you can probably guess from the difference in lengths that this one is more concise and faster-paced. Although I liked JS&MN and admired what the author did with it, I enjoyed Piranesi much more. ( )
  YouKneeK | Dec 5, 2021 |
Ok, well maybe somewhere between 4.5 and 4.75. I enjoyed this. I like the unreliable narrator (even if based on some form of amnesia). I got right into this from the start (I read that others had difficulty getting into this world). And even though I thought it was obvious who was who and who to be wary of, I still enjoyed it. I like the world building in such a small space, contrasted with the vast universes built by some other authors. I found the ending a bit conventional, so points off; but at the moment I don’t have a suggestion on how to do it differently.

I find it interesting that Dr Strange was a DNF for me yet I blew right through this. And more interesting still to read other reviewers who loved Strange and not this. ( )
  jimgosailing | Nov 18, 2021 |
A brilliantly mysterious and creepy premise that reminded me of House of Leaves, albeit in a far more conventional package. Not sure the conclusion quite lives up to the set-up, but I definitely enjoyed this as something so fresh. Jonathan Strange has gone straight on my 'to read' list. ( )
  alexrichman | Nov 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
Here it is worth reflecting on the subject of Clarke's overt homage. The historical Piranesi, an 18th-century engraver, is celebrated for his intricate and oppressive visions of imaginary prisons and his veduta ideate, precise renderings of classical edifices set amid fantastic vistas. Goethe, it is said, was so taken with these that he found the real Rome greatly disappointing. Clarke fuses these themes, seducing us with imaginative grandeur only to sweep that vision away, revealing the monstrosities to which we can not only succumb but wholly surrender ourselves.

The result is a remarkable feat, not just of craft but of reinvention. Far from seeming burdened by her legacy, the Clarke we encounter here might be an unusually gifted newcomer unacquainted with her namesake's work. If there is a strand of continuity in this elegant and singular novel, it is in its central pre-occupation with the nature of fantasy itself. It remains a potent force, but one that can leave us - like Goethe among the ruins - forever disappointed by what is real.
 
How fantastic to have a bestselling novel with an index right at its heart.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Paula Clarke Bain
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, Susannaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ejiofor, ChiwetelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Finke, AstridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mann, DavidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Molnár, Berta EleonóraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"I am the great scholar, the magician, the adept, who is doing the experiment. Of course I need subjects to do it on".

The Magician's Nephew, C. S. Lewis
"People call me a philosopher or a scientist or an anthropologist. I am none of those things. I am an anamnesiologist. I study what has been forgotten. I divine what has disappeared utterly. I work with absences, with silences, with curious gaps between things. I am more of a magician than anything else."

Laurence Arne-Sayles, interview in The Secret Garden, May 1976
Dedication
For Colin
First words
When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of three Tides.
Quotations
The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and waterlilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims? Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous. The Beauty of the House is immeasurable ; its Kindness infinite.

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Book description
Piranesi has always lived in the House. It has thousands, if not an infinity, of rooms and corridors, imprisoning an ocean. A watery labyrinth. Once in a while he sees his friend, The Other, who needs Piranesi for his scientific research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.
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