Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, is a true masterpiece. Published almost twenty years after Clarke’s debut novel, Piranesi explores humanity from such a new angle – and yet, it feels so familiar. The book introduces us to the main character, Piranesi, who, upon the first few pages, is immensely infatuated with the House, an endless expanse of corridors, statues, sky, and sea. Piranesi has lived here long enough to understand three things: the cycle of the tides, which, at seemingly random times rise and fall up and down the wings and hallways; he knows the House provides for him, in Its generosity; and he knows he is alone in the House, among the statues and birds, except for the Other, who visits him twice a week. At first, Piranesi is a naive man who finds complete pleasure in the simplicity of the life the House provides him. Just as he understands the tides, he also knows the explored corridors and where they lead to – though he has scarcely found the end of the House, for it is seemingly infinite – he knows this labyrinth-like the back of his hand. Unlike the Other, who is afraid to venture past the first hallway, Piranesi finds pleasure in exploring the House; to him, It can cause no harm.
There is much to say about the world of Piranesi; the book is written from the first-person perspective of Piranesi himself, and so we see the world of the House through his eyes – and, as everything unfolds, we see the truth slowly revealed through his narrative. This aspect makes the book more enjoyable as we see how each event affects his identity and the morals that he has followed for as long as he can remember.
This book is a fast, enjoyable read that delves into morality by using allegories inscribed in the House and in the morals that drive the characters themselves. As well, it provided me with a series of philosophical questions that were beautifully laid out in the story. Piranesi is humorous, deep, poetic, and intense all at once and requires all readers, especially those who will appreciate this beautifully written masterpiece.