Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Literary Fiction

First Publication Date: September 15th 2020 


Synopsis: 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.


Piranesi is one of those books that will pull you into their world and every time you need to pause reading, the real world looks a little grey, a little lifeless compared to the book. I adore this kind of book that just sucks you in, and it reminded me of The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton in terms of atmosphere and how the mystery relies a lot on the fantastical world it’s set in. I loved getting lost in the House, its Halls and the gorgeous imagery in this book. Piranesi himself is also a delight and such a charming character. Susanna Clarke takes her time setting the world, which meant that it took me 50 or so pages to really get into the story – it sounded like pretentious nonsense, to be completely honest. But after that, once you get a good idea of how the world works and the mystery starts to drive the plot, I was hooked and devoured this.

It is a bit hard to write this review (I’ve been postponing writing this for a week now) because I don’t really know what to say. This was really, really good! The perfect kind of escapist, fantastical mystery that I love, whimsical enough to make it charming but also haunting and dark.

I was a bit let down by the ending, which was predictable, and did not feel like it was in the same pacing and atmosphere as the rest of the book, which is why I am not giving this 5 stars. It was very strong on the first half but it lost me a bit on the second. But I highly enjoyed this and look forward to re-reading this little gem!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

9 thoughts on “Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

  1. Yay, I’m glad you mostly enjoyed this one! I felt very much the same about the mystery and plot not quite living up to potential after the stronger first half, but there is something so mesmerizing about this world once you get into it. I’m so glad it made the WP shortlist!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Me too! It would have been the greatest injustice if it hadn’t been nominated (I am, however, still salty about Dentransition Baby). I look forward to picking up How the One-Armed Sister (…), I saw that you posted a review and while I did not read all of it (I like going into a book a bit blind), what I read made me really want to pick it up (your reviews are always so lovely and eloquent).

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks so much Naty, that’s so kind of you to say! 🙂 Totally fair to skim reviews of a book you’re intending to read soon, I also like to go in without knowing too much so I can relate. I hope you’ll have a good experience with One-Armed Sister when you get to it! I’ll definitely be interested in your thoughts when the time comes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t manage to get into Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I’m excited to read Piranesi – I do like books which explore a fictional setting to the degree it becomes almost a fictional characters (Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea missed the mark for me in some respects, but I did enjoy exploring the story world) so I’m hopeful I’ll enjoy Piranesi.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell either, but I’m definitely curious now. And I think Piranesi sounds right up your alley! Looking forward to your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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