I chose to listen to Piranesi purely because it was the 2021 Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year, and was read by none other than the velvet voiced Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Piranesi is about a man navigating his life living in a maze, and likewise presents itself to the reader as a puzzle that must be navigated.
I’ve seen this book described as ‘beautiful and profound’, ‘spectacularly moving’, ‘stunning’, and ‘a masterful work of weird fiction’. I’m glad to see that it has had the effect of moving so very many people. Unfortunately, I cannot count myself among them. I didn’t dislike the book exactly, but when it finally revealed itself to me it just felt a little… silly.
Piranesi is a man who is content to spend his days surviving in the grand halls of The House, an enormous structure with many halls, filled with fantastical statues, that periodically floods. He has memorised the twists and turns of The House, cataloging all its features (including the bones of presumptive past inhabitants). Animals like birds and fish mysteriously enter and exit the halls, providing him with nourishment and companionship. And twice a week he keeps his standing appointment to meet The Other, the only other human seemingly in existence; a man who sets him research tasks to complete so that together they might unlock the magic of the past that has been lost to man.
Piranesi rarely questions The Other and is content to live his life with no memory of his past, or even his true name. He relishes and respects The House and all its inhabitants with religious acceptance.
Until, bit by bit, his understanding of his world starts to come into question.
I had no expectations from this novel, but the final story just didn’t gel with me the way it has with others. I found the resolution thoroughly unsatisfying. I’m reluctant to say more for risk of spoiling, but suffice to say: 2 Biscuit Box Men out of 5. This one just wasn’t for me, and that’s ok.