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Summary

Bloomsbury presents Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, read by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Winner of The 2021 Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year.

Longlisted for The Women's Prize 2021.

Shortlisted for The Costa Novel of the Year Award.

A Sunday Times best seller.

A New York Times best seller.

Chosen as a book of the year by the the Times, Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, I Paper, New Statesman, Spectator, Time Magazine, Times Literary Supplement, BBC Culture, Netgalley and the Church Times

The spectacular new novel from the bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, ‘one of our greatest living authors.’ (New York Magazine)

Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.

In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.

Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?

Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.

The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.

©2020 Susanna Clarke (P)2020 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic reviews

"Reminds us of fiction’s power to take us to another world and expand our understanding of this one." (Guardian, Autumn highlights)

"It’s always great to have some fiction to heartily recommend, and while there’s been stiff competition this year, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke has won out in the end. A masterful work of weird fiction, it’s a novel that grips, perplexes and moves you, usually all at once!" (Observer, The Best Books of 2020)

"The fiction, nonfiction and poetry that deepened our understanding, ignited our curiosity and helped us escape.... For fantasy readers often eager to get lost in mystical worlds and escape the complications of real life, Piranesi’s predicament deeply resonates." (Time, Books of the Year)

What listeners say about Piranesi

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Beautiful and Brilliant



Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi is compelling, clever, and couldn’t be a more fitting return for the the author who sixteen years ago brought us the brilliant Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

A modern allegoric tale that works beautifully on all its levels; I’ve never regretted my spoiler-free approach to reviews more, as I really want to discuss the allegory at the heart of this intriguing story. Simultaneously simple and complex, every piece seems to have its place both on the surface and below, the labyrinth setting layered and reflected in characters and themes.

As I say, it seems the perfect return for Clarke and it made me wonder, on top of the dominant metaphor, how much her own experience was was imbued into the foundation. She’d been so wildly successful with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then became ill, leading to the long gap between novels. As someone who’s followed a similar (if more humble) path, I can’t help but feel this novel may be closer to the author’s heart and mind than perhaps any of us can know. But, this theory is another indicator of the brilliance of the book—it’s one of the stories that will probably mean something different to everyone, allowing readers to find in it pieces of themselves, their own rooms to explore within their own labyrinthine interior worlds.

It’s the first book I’ve heard narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor and I hope it won’t be the last—his voice is so easy to listen to and his intonation is lovely and subtle. Not all actors are fantastic narrators, but he definitely is. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

33 people found this helpful

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Slow grind, for me

Notwithstanding the sophistication attested to many listeners, I have to be honest and admit that I reached halfway without experiencing any spark of interest or emotional connection with the text. The story and I just did not gel, though it evidently turned on the lights for other listers/readers.

23 people found this helpful

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Bewitching

Strange, beautiful and filled with the magical. We spend our time with the delightful creature Piranesi who lives an odd life in an even odder place. Gradually we learn his story and although it's signalled well in advance it is no less beautiful for that.

After a 17 year wait for a second book from Susanna Clarke it would be easy for it to be a disappointment. This most definitely is worth the wait. I found myself smiling often as I read, there is so much to enjoy here from the sublime writing to the gentle character of Piranesi himself and the odd and glittering world he inhabits.

I recently re-read Mister Norrel and Jonathan Strange and loved it again, though it is punishingly long and could definitely have been shorter and just as good. This is book is a short and delightful thing. Strongly recommend.

21 people found this helpful

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Dark but compelling

An exploration of altered states and Outsider concepts. Well crafted but may have complex impact on those with some mental illnesses.

18 people found this helpful

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Over long short story

What a disappointment. The start is really dragged out and so is the end. The early spoilers give away enough of the plot that intrigue doesn't last. The key scenes are great but then back to slow predictability for the wind up.

Not what I had hoped for...

14 people found this helpful

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Not for me

I wanted to love this book, but I found it tedious. The narration was spot on, but the storyline was lacking for me.

12 people found this helpful

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A big disappointment

Great narration couldn't overcome the listiness of this book, was greatly looking forward to it having just had the pleasure of listening to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, but, original as the idea is it doesn't hold up, a handling that might have been bearable in a short story quickly becomes tedious.

9 people found this helpful

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Over-stretched one-track tale

Intriguing concept, excellent narration ... but a very slow starter and a one-track story arc that was overstretched and thin.
Yes, I get the internal v. external, reality v. mental allegories, but the concept could have been explored equally well (and more efficiently) in a short story.
I don't regret listening to 'Piranesi' but I'm afraid it didn't quite live up to some of its hyperbolic reviews.

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Breathtakingly beautiful

A wonderfully written story perfectly narrated. I could have listened forever. What an excellent follow-up to Strange and Norrell.

5 people found this helpful

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Sheer perfection

This short lyrical novel is just perfect in its story, unique setting and the writing.

Impossible to summarise but sure to cement Clarke’s reputation. One of a kind

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 17-09-20

Strange & Pointless

I read all the raving reviews so I went back & listened to it a 2nd time. I wanted more of “Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” , but this is nothing like that. The world created in this book is not magical, but just boring. The narration was great. I wanted to like it after reading the reviews, but it just isn’t for me.

30 people found this helpful

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  • Henry V
  • 26-02-21

Fascinating Social Study

The book is a wonderful mashup of Plato, CS Lewis, and Borges. I completely agree with the rave reviews. Clarke has written a masterpiece.

And the reaction to it is a fascinating social study. Half the audible readers think the book is genius. The other half think it’s boring, predictable, nonsensical. One reviewer characterizes the book as a string of random scenes.

It makes me wonder, Are we all reading the same book?

No of course we aren’t. We each bring to it our own experiences. As with all books. But something special must be happening here for the reviews to be so polarized. I’d like to take a stab at an explanation.

Piranesi enthralled me because it brought up so many of my feelings around losing my worldview in my twenties. I can imagine that people who have not had to go through this experience will not be as amazed by how Clarke has conveyed it. She paints it precisely. She made me relive it.

Also, if you are not familiar with Plato and Lewis and Borges, you might not realize the ideas Clarke is playing with. You might be thinking about the Plot when she is thinking about the Meaning. It’s not a small thing for this author to add something fresh and exciting to a 3,000 year old conversation.

Finally, I loved the book because I loved the main character. His optimism, skepticism, precision, and earnestness totally won me over. I would have followed him on any adventure. But maybe you like your main characters to be powerful, in control, hardboiled. Maybe you did not feel what I felt, a love for his childlike goodness and sense of wonder. He made me feel acutely just how much I have lost by becoming modern, adult, and sophisticated. And that is the magic of the book.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Elisa D
  • 16-09-20

Never heard a story like this one, but hoped to

I’ve been waiting for this story for so long, even though I had no idea what Susanna Clarke would craft next. But here she is, offering yet another world that is complex and eerie but beautiful and worthy of spending time in. Piranesi and his labyrinth will break your heart then put it back together again. ‘The beauty of the House is immeasurable; it’s kindness infinite.’

12 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-20

Stilted and unfortunate

While well written, the story wasn't gripping. If you are looking for a sequel to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, then you're in luck

6 people found this helpful

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  • Geonn W. Cannon
  • 16-09-20

Magnificent

A magical book, almost a fairy tale, with amazing writing enhanced by perfect narration. Relatively short but massive in its weight. I really loved this story.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-09-20

Random Scenes Strung Together

Do not both reading this book. The author has strung together random scenes and not bothered to create a story. It's a complete mess.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Brody w.
  • 16-09-20

Hauntingly Beautiful

I love this book. it was deep and beautiful and sad. I finished it in one day and this story will stay with me forever.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-02-21

Not for everyone, but exceptional

I cannot fault the negative reviews of this book or the disappointment some felt. They are right. Conversely, I agree with all of the glowing reviews and share that opinion. Why the dichotomy? The answer lies in the book. Some will see it as a disjointed tale of nothing as that is all their brain can make of it. Others can see the door Clarke painted, because it is one they have been searching for. I hope you can see it and walk through it. If you cannot, it is not your fault, nor are you wrong. This simply is not the medium you need to reopen the door within yourself. Perhaps it is too late, but I hope you do not stop searching.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Evan Holloway
  • 06-10-20

Excellent narration of an excellent story.

Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a wondrous voice to Susanna Clarke's beautiful prose. The story is fantastical and moving, gentle and mysterious, and Mr. Ejiofor's pacing and character development add even more layers of complexity and wonder.

I will happily listen to this again and again.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Timothy
  • 26-09-20

An instant classic

It has become increasingly rare to be able to experience a new classic just as it has been produced. Piranesi is one of those classics. Like the Eleanor Rigby, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince, Guernica or Gymnopédie, you are immediately aware from the first moment of contact that you are in the presence of something profound and lasting that is going to remain part of our collective awareness for many, many years to come.

Piranesi is a mysterious, touching wonderment, a poetic and visionary masterpiece. Reading it creates a dream world within that continues to unfold and resonate with your own dreams and questions long after you have put the book down. Susanna Clarke is a master wordsmith at the peak of her craft, leaving out all unnecessary descriptions and explanations, allowing the visions to stand for themselves and the questions to arise of their own accord and seek their own answers within your awareness. And ultimately it is a bittersweet celebration of the poignant beauty and mystery of simply being. The fact that she managed to create Piranesi while suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome makes the achievement all the more amazing.

Serendipitously, this exquisite poetic fable is here further enhanced by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s narration. His diction, presentation and emotion are all perfect. Once you have heard it, it would be impossible to imagine anyone else doing Piranesi justice. Both the book itself and this audiobook version of it are classics for the ages.

3 people found this helpful