Book Club Read
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.
Before I get to my thoughts about this book, I want to say this. I won’t be going into the story or try to outline it. I’m not sure I know where I should begin or how I would put it into words. What’s more, I feel that anything I might reveal would constitute a spoiler, so I’m afraid, the blurb is all you get.
With that out of the way:
Twenty-six pages into this book I had two thoughts:
1. I’m not convinced (most of) my book club members are going to be impressed with this choice.
2. Looks like this is one of those books that is going to leave me intrigued and totally confused by the time I finish reading it.
The house is valuable because it is the house. It is enough in and of Itself. It is not the means to an end. - Page 61
Since the book club meeting won’t take place for another three days, I can’t say anything about how right or wrong I was in that first assessment. As for my second thought…
I am definitely intrigued. In fact, I was intrigued and engrossed from the moment I started reading. It’s fair to say that for about the first quarter of the book I had no idea what I was reading or what the story was supposed to be, but whatever it was, I was captivated.
As far as Piranesi is concerned, the House is the world. It is not quite that simple for the reader. I guess you can look at the House as a metaphor for Piranesi’s confused mind. Or you can embrace the mythical, surreal atmosphere of the narrative and accept the House as a different world, only accessible for familiar with the old knowledge. And it now occurs to me that there’s a third option in which the House is a combination of real-world and confused (d)illusions.
The main character, called Piranesi by his only human companion, the Other, came across as innocent and childlike. He doesn’t question his surroundings, his world, or anything else for that matter, when the story starts. What’s more, if it hadn’t been mentioned that he was male, I would have guessed Piranesi was female. But that innocence allows us to better view the world – aka the House – and Piranesi’s life there. Piranesi’s thoughts are very descriptive which allows the reader to see the halls and the statues. And I loved how Piranesi’s character was revealed through how he deals with the human remains he finds and again when he postpones his own requirements to meet the needs of nesting birds.
While I’m on the subject of those statues. I have absolutely no doubt I missed a lot of references there. I’m almost certain that those statues represented old Gods and I would be surprised if their placement in the story isn’t somehow significant. Most if not all of this went over my head, but I can’t say I minded or that I feel as if I missed (vital) parts of the story.
As I said earlier, this story grabbed me right from the start and kept me captivated until the very end. But, what I like even more, is that Piranesi still hasn’t let go. More than twenty-four hours after finishing the book I’m still playing ‘what-if’ games with myself. I’d love to get into those here but that would be very spoilery, so I’ll keep my musings to myself. All I can say is that if you like very well-written books that make you wonder, keep you guessing, and refuse to give you clear-cut answers, Piranesi is probably the book for you.