This new novel by Susanna Clarke (author of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), references (in multiple ways) the work of the Italian artist and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi known for his etchings of “fictitious and atmospheric prisons” (Le Carceri d’Invenzione). It is a ‘realist fantasy’ that conjures up both internal and external ‘otherworldliness’ in a lyrical and ultimately tender tale of loss, forgetting, and remembering.
Themes of finding truth through madness, caring for the dead and the lost, and devotion to place and the world (or worlds), are balanced with examinations of narcissism, ‘transgression’ and deep and enduring malicious manipulation.
It is all the more remarkable that this is told through a tale with initially only one character, and ultimately only a very small number of additional participants. It is a short read, for as the puzzle unfolds, the story draws you rapidly along until its ultimate and satisfying conclusion.
Highly recommended. 📚
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