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Piranesi – 5 Star Book Review

I was granted complimentary access to the audiobook edition of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke through the publisher, Bloomsbury UK Audio, in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. Thank you so much to Bloomsbury UK Audio for the opportunity! I’ve been trying to find the time to read Piranesi and audio is so much easier to fit into my day. This has not swayed my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.

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About the Book

by Susanna Clarke

Published 15 September 2020
by Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Page Count: 245
Audio Length: 6h 58m
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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.

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My Review

My Rating: 5 Stars
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Piranesi is the story of Piranesi, The Other, 13 mysterious dead, and the 16th who has yet to arrive in this world: A series of vestibules and corridors that contain the ocean. When an unexpected 17th person arrives, who Piranesi dubs The Prophet, Piranesi’s reality is shifted irreparably and the mysteries of who he used to be, how he got here, where here is, and who The Other actually is all demand answers.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect starting this book. Susanna Clarke is a well-beloved author by those who finished and enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or enjoyed the BBC TV adaptation. I attempted to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell when it was new, but I found it slow and wasn’t particularly upset when I lost my copy before I finished it. Sometime in the last year, I came across a YouTuber who discovered it in her late 20s and now raves about how good it is, and this inspired me to buy another copy and give it a chance, only I haven’t had the time to crack open such a long book just yet. Thus, Piranesi is the first Susanne Clarke book I have finished. Let’s just say I’m now delighted by the thought of re-reading and finally finishing the former.

Clarke’s writing in Piranesi reminds me of Morgenstern’s in The Night Circus, and I couldn’t help but think to myself repeatedly while enjoying Piranesi that this is what I was hoping to read when I read The Starless Sea. This is the mostly-linear, whimsical magical realism mystery that I thought the dollhouse world in The Starless Sea was meant to tell. I believe fans of either author will love Piranesi, and I think Piranesi is a great place to start for potential readers interested in Clarke’s work who aren’t yet ready to give into the much longer Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I hope Clarke writes more novels like this one, and hopefully with a shorter gap in between than between this one and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

The narrator’s performance was excellent. Each character has a distinct way of speaking, and he’s able to convey the relaxed, carefree atmosphere of the labyrinth world. I dare say it almost reminded me of listening to Gaiman narrating one of his own works, like The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I always listen at 1.5-2x speed when playing an audiobook, and I found 2x was the perfect listening speed for me for this particular book.

About the Author

Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham in 1959, and spent her childhood in Northern England and Scotland. 

She studied philosophy, politics and economics at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford and taught in Turin and Bilbao for two years, before becoming an editor at Simon and Schuster in Cambridge, working on their cookery list. She is the author of seven short stories and novellas, published in anthologies in the USA. One of her short stories, ‘The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse’ was published in a limited edition, and her story ‘Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower’ was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award 2001. 

In 2004, her first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was published. It tells the story of two magicians in early 19th-century London and was shortlisted for the 2004 Guardian First Book Award and the Whitbread First Novel Award.

Susanna Clarke lives in Cambridge. Her most recent book is The Ladies of Grace Adieu (2006), a collection of short stories.

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Jenna is the artist/illustrator and author behind Westveil Publishing and its sub-banner platforms Jenna Gets Creative and The Westveil Archives. She live in Newfoundland, Canada with her husband, daughter, and feline overlords.

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