Author: Susanna Clarke
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* Cover appreciation moment *
When I was little my mom read to me Greek mythology stories. I grew up with them and Greek mythology is very close to my heart. When I saw the cover with its typical Greek design, with God Pan with his flute on the top of a pilaster with heavily ornamented chapiter, my heart started to make exciting loops inside of my ribcage.
Not to mention how gorgeous is the combination of bronze details over a matt black background.
I drooled over the cover just enough. Let talk about what can be found between the pages.
It is a teeny book with its 245 pages. It was my last book of 2020 and I read it on the New Year Eve (I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating). And hell – it was the best New Year Eve! Like I said, it is a small book, but between these gorgeous covers is hidden a huge surprise.
Piranesi is living in the House. He and the Other are the only people there. Except them, there are birds and the Albatross. The book is presented as a Piranesi’s diary and the Albatross appearance is an event of such greatness that he started to title his diary entrances as ‘entry for the X day of the X month in the year the albatross came to the South-western halls’. There are the tides as well. They flood the halls, they come from different part of the world, they have different colours and bring different objects to the hall. Piranesi is fascinated by them. He studies them, explores the objects they bring to The House and make a schedule. This way he will know when and which hall is going to be flooded so he can stay away from them.
And there is the Other. He gave the name Piranesi to our lovely explorer, but the name leaves a strange taste in Piranesi’s mouth. It doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t sound like his name. But he prefers to lead this kind of life – unaware and not interested of his past, he lives in the peaceful House and he doesn’t question his existence there, why is he actually there, how did he end there, where did he live, and what did he do before his life in the House.
The Other is a scientist as well. Piranesi helps him to find what The Other belief is a ‘Great and Secret Knowledge hidden somewhere in the World that will grant them enormous power once they have discovered it.’ They meet twice a week Tuesday and Friday and Piranesi reported to him what he has found. So far he has travelled to:
• Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West
• Eight-Hundred-and-Ninetieth Hall to the North
• Seven-Hundred-and-Sixty-Eight Hall to the South
‘In all these places I have stood in Doorways and looked ahead. I have never seen any indication that the World was coming to an End, but only the regular progression of Halls and Passageways into the Far Distance.’
All Piranesi has is a watch, because The Other expects him to be punctual for their meetings and he gets mad if Piranesi is late. He also has his bag with diaries and some old clothes. While The Other wear his shiny new suits and brings that strange device, on which he types everything Piranesi shares with him.
At the very same moment Piranesi mentioned the laptop The Other brings with him every time, warning bells ringed. I know that something isn’t right. There is something I missed. Why Piranesi doesn’t know what date it is? Why he doesn’t date his diary entries, but uses some significant events to keep track of the time? I knew it! And oh, boy, what a twist! I wasn’t prepared for this and it blew my head. If I enjoyed the book up until then, after I found out what’s going on, I endeavoured the book.
As the magical it is at the beginning, it slowly develops to an ugly story that shows the lengths people are willing to go out of greediness. That they are willing to sacrifice other human being’s life in order to fulfil their purposes. And to act like this is an absolutely normal and logical thing to do.
The plot is nicely layered with lots of psychologically challenging content. It makes you think, it makes your brain spin. As tiny of a book it is, it requires a bit of concentration and requires your full attention and investment into the story. It is best to start the book without knowing much about it, let it build up for you and enjoy the journey. I promise – it worth your time and you should definitely put it at the top of your TBR list.
A huge thanks to Bloomsbury and the author Susanna Clarke for sending me this beautiful, signed book via Readers First in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are mine!