I'm usually quite a slow reader, and I often marvel at how my wife can devour a book in a few days, sometimes even hours. It's rare that a book catches my attention and I can't put it down. Not since Alex Garland's The Tesseract had I found a book I had to read, until I bought Susanna Clarke's Piranesi at the weekend.

I won't give too much of the story away, it is definitely one that you want to go into knowing as little as possible, but it is a half-decent little yarn. It's not astonishing, for sure. It's no Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. The nice lady in Waterstones definitely over-sold it — I didn't think it was the best novel in a long time (although, as I'm also currently reading The Magic Mountain, time is fairly irrelevant to me).

I loved the first half of the book, but I think that was because it promised so much depth, which wasn't really followed through with. The way Clarke introduces Piranesi and the House, and leads you into its quirks and strangeness, is excellent. Ultimately, though, I was a little disappointed with the ending. Everything got resolved a little too quickly and neatly, and it all went out with a bit of a whimper.

I think the key fault with the book is that it's a bit on the short side. A few thousand extra words here and there, a bit more world building, especially in the first act, would have been welcome. A few extra scenes in the third act to ramp up the tension would have been good too.

It's classic Susana Clarke, though, and there are shades of Jonathan Strange bimbling about in the background, especially later when more is explained. Susanna is excellent at world building, and she puts a lot of effort into the detail of the backstory, which probably is less necessary than other aspects which got skimped on. In particular, I felt the descriptions of the House lacked detail in places. Every so often, I struggled to visualise it (even though I was vaguely aware of the real Piranesi's sketches). Often, less is more, but in this case, because the House is such a dominant feature of the story, I wanted to know more specifics. A couple of times Piranesi talks of vestibules as if they are different somehow to the other rooms (beyond their size), but I wasn't clear how.

Another thing that slightly annoyed me, and this is the publisher's fault — the description of the statue of the faun in the book didn't match the one on the front cover.

I did wonder if you could adapt it into a film. It would probably work quite well, and I'm sure someone will, but due to the nature of the story, it will have to rely too much on flashbacks, and I hate those. They work well for this novel, because Susana is superb at pacing and controlling the flow of information, but telling a story like this definitely works better in print than on film.

Anyway, it's a recommend from me, on the whole.

SPOILERS BELOW — Scroll at your own risk:

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It's just occurred to me that a much better ending would have been if Raphael and Piranesi went after Laurence Arne-Sayles, perhaps with the help of poor James Ritter. Maybe somehow they had to lure him back into the House where they could trap him. Unless, of course, Clarke has a sequel lined up…