The Bottom Line: A funny, surreal fantasy that is unlike any other book you’ll read this year.
Susanna Clark, who is perhaps best known for her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, has created a one-of-a-kind tale that readers won’t soon forget.
Told in the first person from Piranesi’s point of view, the first few pages grab immediately with its puzzling description of himself and his environs. Like some castaway who has taken it upon himself to explore and map his world, he describes the rooms and corridors he has catalogued. It’s neither labyrinth nor island, but it contains an ocean, creatures and endless statues.
There are also bodies.
And an irritable human called “The Other,” who treats Piranesi like a research assistant.
There are no two ways about it: Clark has created a puzzle told in 243 pages. Each chapter is a dare to figure out who Piranesi really is and where he is before he himself realizes it.
It’s a gripping, tidy tale that can easily be finished in an afternoon. But thematically, it is actually quite expansive, with much to say about power dynamics and psychology.