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Grab the paperback of ‘Piranesi,’ and get ready to be wowed

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I’m bringing you some backlist today — a book that may have slipped under your radar when it was published in the fall of 2020. Those were peak COVID times, after all, and some of us — myself included — were having a hard time focusing on literary fiction.

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But you will want to go back for “Piranesi,” the much-anticipated second novel from Susanna Clarke, the author of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” It’s a slow-burn fantasy novel set in a magical world, with a story and characters that unfold in masterful, almost hypnotic style.

Our narrator, Piranesi, lives in a house with infinite rooms, endless corridors and walls lined with thousands upon thousands of statues. Within this labyrinth of halls is an ocean, with tides that shift and waves that crash. There are birds and fish and clouds and constellations. And there is one other person in the house — a man we come to know as The Other. He visits Piranesi twice a week and seeks help with research into “A Great and Secret Knowledge.”

Piranesi loves to explore the house. But as he does, he discovers evidence of a world beyond the one he has always known. And that, dear readers, is all I’m going to tell you about the plot. Because the magic of this novel is experiencing Clarke’s surreal setting and the twists and turns of her story in real time, along with Piranesi. The novel is fantasy, mystery, mythology and philosophy, all told with astonishing prose. I had the good fortune of buddy-reading this novel, chapter by chapter, which was an excellent way to experience it. Kenzie and I would text back and forth, speculating about what was happening, formulating theories and really digging into themes like magic, memory, contentment, and what it means to be truly happy.

If you missed it back then, don’t miss it now. Grab the paperback version of “Piranesi,” and get ready to get wowed.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.