Piranesi by Susanna Clarke ★★★★★ #BookReview #BookBlog

Primary Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy
Published: 15 Sep 2020 by Bloomsbury
Page count: 250 (print length)
My Format: eBook via Overdrive/Libby
Cover: Appropriate
Pacing: Perfect
Ending: Sad, but hopeful and satisfying  
Do I Recommend: Yes
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy Piranesi

My rating: ★★★★★

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.

My Thoughts
I had a profound experience reading this book. I am not even sure I can put into words how much I loved it, but I will try my best. Here are my pros and cons for Piranesi:


  1. I was immediately mesmerized… from the very first page. I had no clue whatsoever what I was reading about, but I also couldn’t stop reading!
  2. There isn’t one misplaced word, misused word, extra word, or missing word in the book. For me, this book is an example of absolutely precise writing and every word is exactly as it should be.
  3. Every detail in the book has a purpose. Reading the book is almost like solving a puzzle. Pay attention.
  4. The world-building was phenomenal!
  5. There is such an odd sense of containment, constraint, restriction, and control in the story, yet it takes place in an infinite labyrinth of corridors and rooms! It seems crazy that this is even possible! I think this feeling of restriction may have affected me more strongly that other readers because ever since I was a little girl, I have had a recurring dream (nightmare!) of being trapped alone in some kind of infinite space. I don’t know where I am, but I know I have to accomplish some kind of task. But the space around me is so vast and intimidating, and accomplishing the task feels so daunting, that I can’t physically move and I feel like I am losing my grip on reality. I literally feel paralyzed because of the boundlessness around me rather than feeling free. I know I projected my recurring nightmare onto this story, and perhaps that is why it impacted me so strongly. Piranesi, in a lot of ways, was living my nightmare.
  6. I thought Piranesi’s isolation in the labyrinth, and his adaptation and acceptance to his surroundings, was an interesting tale to read during an international pandemic and quarantine.
  7. I didn’t just read about Piranesi. I became Piranesi. It was the most amazing connection I’ve ever had with a book character in my life. I wonder if this is because I am a massive introvert and I can appreciate total and mostly permanent solitude. Or maybe it is because of my recurring dream of being faced with infinite space and impossible tasks that I connected so strongly with him. Or maybe it was simply so well-written that it was inevitable for some readers to become as connected to him as I was. Whatever it was… I was Piranesi.
  8. The ending is heartbreaking, devastating, hopeful, and joyous all at once.


This is the type of book I deeply appreciate. It is challenging, complex, odd, mesmerizing, and completely engrossing. It can be described as adventure, horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, fable, myth, magical realism… it is basically indescribable because it is so many things all at once!

I’ve probably only re-read 5 to 10 books in my entire lifetime. I just don’t do it. There are too many wonderful books out there to discover so I have decided for myself to not re-read many books. That said, I absolutely will re-read Piranesi someday, and that is one of the highest compliments I can give it.

I read an interesting article about the author, Susanna Clarke, and how she has been somewhat housebound herself for the past decade or so by a debilitating illness. This makes the book even more profound for me because I’m sure her feelings of isolation were at least part of why this book felt so incredibly honest to me.

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy Piranesi. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

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