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The Crack Magazine


Piranesi by Susannah Clarke

Vaguely reminiscent of some of the otherworldly sci-fi books my dad used to borrow from the local library in the 1970s, Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi centres her fantastical world within a building (the House) the internal structure of which is a labyrinth of endless rooms, halls and passageways. And, if that seems like Piranesi could be confusing and inscrutable, it isn’t because the book’s engaging narrator and guide is, like us, trying to figure out the mysteries of the House. His painstaking but never tedious detective work gradually reveals the truth. Which, when revealed, is not so strange involving as it does the kind of real-world angst and unpleasantness the House provides a sanctuary from. For anyone emerging from lockdown the book’s concluding questions will provoke a shiver of recognition - and although I’m not sure this was the book’s original initial intention - these questions can’t be ignored. Inside or outside? Within or without? Interior or exterior? Questions the characters in Piranesi wrestle with and finally need to definitively answer. The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021 is a beautifully written and organised Matryoshka doll of a novel that has much to recommend it.

Publ. by Bloomsbury - £8.99

Steven Long