Susanna Clarke’s first novel was my first introduction to the world of the Fae and is something I will never forget. Even though I read it years ago, well before I started blogging, the one thing I remember the most is the feeling of dread I had throughout the entire novel. In fact, when I recall Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, that dread and the darkness of it are the first things that come to mind. I am happy to report that Piranesi has that exact same feel. It is creepy and atmospheric as hell, and you never quite overcome the unsettled feeling you have while reading it.
With two novels under her belt, I can safely say that Ms. Clarke always makes me feel like I am one step behind when reading her stories. It is as if I am playing catch-up regarding the characters and the events that happen in the novel. This feeling exacerbates the unsettled feeling her stories evoke as if I am missing something vital. It is FOMO but with an intense sense of dread about it.
The bright spot in Piranesi is Piranesi himself. He is so happy and content to be almost pure of heart and spirit. There is no doubt that he is a man, but you do wonder if he is completely real because he is just such a joy. As you learn more about him and his circumstances, you find yourself wanting to protect that innocence at all costs because it is such a rare thing.
The one area in which I feel Piranesi is lacking is in the whys behind the story. Ms. Clarke gives us the who, the what, the where, and even the how, and the when. But we never learn the whys behind various characters’ actions. Knowing this would certainly flesh out Piranesi’s story and the characters within it and would go a long way to satisfying my own curiosity.
However, I don’t think such character details are Ms. Clarke’s strong suit. Her writing is best when she leaves such things as motivation up to the reader to decide. Where Ms. Clarke excels is in evoking emotion, something she does in abundance with Piranesi. Because of this, I will most definitely wait another fourteen years for her to publish another novel.