Susanna Clarke’s second novel, Piranesi, is almost entirely unlike her landmark Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, with two exceptions. First, it is also fantasy. Second and much more importantly, it is also beautiful.
Piranesi take the form of a volume of the narrator’s journals. Thus, unlike JS&MN, which is told by an omniscient narrator, Piranesi is told in emphatically limited first person: the narrator knows a great deal about the House in which he lives, but very little about almost everything else. When the book opens, he has been exploring the apparently infinite House for several years: documenting the tides of the House’s ocean; cataloging the statues that crowd the thousands of halls; and visiting the several skeletons he has found, bringing them offerings and speaking to them so they know they are not alone.