Piranesi: A true exploration of isolation

By Eoin Ryan

Piranesi, though a short read many can go through in a single sitting, is a dense and fast paced exploration of a mysterious world with the origins of both the halls and our main characters unknown.

For anyone checking the book themselves, do not check the blurb and only read the first few pages of the book. There are massive spoilers that describe events occurring over a hundred pages into a book that has less than 250 pages. 

Some readers may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of small details such as hall numbers and different statue variations throughout the hallways the story is based in. It is easier to ignore most of these details as this clog of information is mainly there to simply express the excessive amount of information our protagonist knows about the halls. 

Piranesi is an exploration into isolation and what it means to be free, both their pros and cons, as Piranesi explores the halls the story is based in. He only knows one other person that is living, The Other, and his isolation is evident in how he interacts with everything around him, from the statues lining each hall to skeletal corpses he tends to. His want for interaction, the need to speak with anything living or dead, the excitement felt with each human interaction is something many who suffer or have suffered from isolation can feel.  

Susanna Clarke does her own twist on the diary writing format, with (albatross thing) being used to track time instead of regular dates. Mixing her fantasy setting into even the diary beginnings, specific dates are absent and the story is instead set in ‘The year the albatross came to the South-Western Halls.’ It seems enticing readers to fully invest themselves into the mystery of stories comes second nature to Clarke as each out of place piece of information is taken in and noted without a second thought.

The weakest part of the story, however, is the conclusion of the story’s biggest mystery. There seemed to be too many hints at this as it was evident what it was before it fully concluded with the only unknown part being when it will be revealed by the author. Instead of a surprising twist that would shock the reader and make them wonder how it will change the story’s conclusion, the reveal was unsurprising and easy to see with every hint making it more obvious.

Piranesi is an easy recommendation for most readers, especially those searching for a short but fulfilling mystery exploring an original new world. Despite the lacklustre twist, it is exceptional in every other regard and will most likely be a memorable read for plenty enticed by Susanna Clarke’s masterpiece.

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