It gathered such good reviews and was on many prize shortlists too, winning the The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. But of the forty novels I’ve read so far this year, this is the one I got the least from. In fact, to be honest, I found Susanna Clarke’s Piranese to be pretentious (“Look at me! how deep and significant …!”) pseudo-philosophical tosh.
But one good thing came out of the irritation that novel engendered. I was prompted to send off for the book of Piranese drawings from the British Museum produced to accompany an exhibition in 2020. And this (remarkably inexpensive) book is really a thing of beauty. And I think I might well prefer these very expressive sketches and freer drawings to such of the familiar etchings that I knew. If you want a pleasurable evening or two exploring monumental and strange spaces, I do warmly recommend you try this Piranese, rather than Piranese.