When I read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell many, many years ago, I remember thinking that it started as a slow burner and then spiralled out into something much bigger and stranger and wilder by the end. I really enjoyed it, so much so that I snapped up the “follow-up”—The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories—as soon as it came out and found it to be very witty and utterly delightful.
That was good 15 years ago, and I hadn’t heard anything about Susanna Clarke since then—until someone in an online forum mentioned that Piranesi by Susanna Clarke was her favorite book of the past year, and perfect quarantine reading to boot. I looked up the book and thought, “Oh my gosh, I HAVE to read this!”. So when I finally gave up on Bleak House, Piranesi was at the top of my reading list.
I think the less you know going into it, the better, so I will just say this: if you like Calvino and Borges, if you like the idea of a seemingly infinite “house” with the ocean tides crashing through its lower levels and clouds filling the top, if you like plunging into the middle of a story and having the delightful feeling of not understanding what’s happening but being very excited to find out, if you like spare, elegant writing and a short novel that manages to be placidly cool and unsettling and moving and very odd indeed, then this is for you.