Piranesi lives to explore his unusual house—its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls lined with thousands of statues. Waves thunder up staircases, and rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi 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.
We believers have waited a long time for a second novel from Clarke, and so it’s especially exciting to see that none of her enchantment has worn off—it’s evolved. Reading her lithe new book, Piranesi, feels like finding a copy of Steven Millhauser’s Martin Dressler in the back of C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe ... The hypnotic quality of Piranesi stems largely from how majestically Clarke conjures up this surreal House ... an unusually fragile mystery—as delicate as the slender fingers and wispy petals on the marble statues that fill the House. Clarke’s power certainly extends beyond mere suspense, but her story relies on the steady accretion of apprehension that finally gives way to a base-shifting revelation. Until you read the book yourself, keep your wand drawn to ward off the summaries of enthusiastic fans and clumsy reviewers. I promise to tread carefully here ... Perhaps Clarke’s cleverest move in this infinitely clever novel is the way she critiques our obliterating efforts to extract deeper meaning and greater value from everything in our world ... This is the abiding magic of Clarke’s novel: We’re as likely to pity Piranesi for his cheerful acceptance of imprisonment as we are to envy him for his ready appreciation of the world as he finds it. Clarke conceived of this story long before the coronavirus pandemic, but tragedy has made Piranesi resonate with a planet in quarantine. To abide in these pages is to find oneself happily detained in awe.
... the sweetness, the innocence of Piranesi's love for this world is devastating to read. Clarke's writing is clear, sharp — she can cleave your heart in a few short words. In these brief but gut-wrenchingly tender interactions we are felled by the loneliness Piranesi can't fully grasp. The concept is gone from his mind of what he longs for the most ... This crossing of realms — the magical and scientific; the mystical and profane — in both Jonathan Strange and Piranesi is an alluring combination. As if Marie Curie meets Cleopatra on Mary Anning's beach. The mystery of Piranesi unwinds at a tantalizing yet lightening-like pace — it's hard not to rush ahead, even when each sentence, each revelation makes you want to linger ... Humans seek connection and knowledge — but how do we define those quests? How do we approach those paths? Both worlds in this enthralling, transcendent novel come with magic and reason, beauty and warmth, danger and destruction. However ill-gotten, Piranesi has achieved an equilibrium, a delicate peace with the contradictions of pain and love. How do we do the same? How do we bear the pain of our limits, and what must we give up to survive?
...beautiful ... Initially, the book’s momentum is created and maintained by the reader and narrator learning more, at different rates. A little before the halfway point, these processes of discovery intertwine with a conflict that prompts the characters’ actions for the rest of the book ... Piranesi has a deliberately tight focus ... Anyone who reads this book in search of only 'something just like JS&MN' will almost certainly be disappointed: unless the 'something' they are looking for is a lingering sense of warmth, wonder, and fulfillment.