Question 1

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When I nominated this book, I suggested it was best to know as little as possible going in, and the fun was the slow unfolding of the mystery of the world and people. Do you agree with this assessment? Was the way the mystery unfolded engaging for you?

Comments

  • 1

    Yes, I loved the unfolding. The first chapters let us know that the protagonist's consciousness was pretty narrow and was revealing to the reader very little about anything anything about the larger world because the character didn't know there even was a larger world. As his experiences broadened, so did our own understanding of the book's world and what constitutes reality there.

  • 0

    Yes, totally - one of the great things about this book (and IMHO there were several great things) was the reticence of the author as regards the world. So much more satisfying than a kind of lay-it-all-out-in-chapter-1 pattern which one often sees in books. The best single example of this was probably when the protagonist realised that there whole diary system, which had been presented as utterly systematic and reliable, turned out to be all over the place.

  • 1

    I loved it! Discovery by exploration! Wonderful!

  • 2

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Yes, totally - one of the great things about this book (and IMHO there were several great things) was the reticence of the author as regards the world. So much more satisfying than a kind of lay-it-all-out-in-chapter-1 pattern which one often sees in books. The best single example of this was probably when the protagonist realised that there whole diary system, which had been presented as utterly systematic and reliable, turned out to be all over the place.

    It's a good example of the narrator being so unreliable that not even they realise they're unreliable!

    I agree, it was a good way of feeding in the exposition over time. Clarke is a good enough author to engage us readers from the beginning while doing that slow unfolding of backstory.

    It was somewhat contrived the way Raphael's appearance just coincided with the tide, but the book isn't about "realism": everything in it is contrived to make a point about... something?

  • 0
    edited December 2020

    This is probably the right place to mention one of my early theories about the context - which in part had to be abandoned and yet still has something going for it (I think). For the first few chapters I was convinced that Susanna Clarke was describing a kind of superlatively extended British Museum. Those of us who know the large open entrance hall will perhaps see why I thought this - there's a quality of openness and white clarity about the architecture of that room which kind of resonated with my slowly building internal picture of the House. And the BM is of course full of statues of many kinds, and one might well discover minotaurs there (or more precisely, the Assyrian counterparts)

    When I got to the question that The Other threw in about Battersea I was convinced that the setting was a kind of other-dimensional BM in which the halls and galleries extended all across alternate London.

    Now, that theory had to be discarded in the end, but I am still convinced that Susanna based some facets of the House on this.

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:
    For the first few chapters I was convinced that Susanna Clarke was describing a kind of superlatively extended British Museum. Those of us who know the large open entrance hall will perhaps see why I thought this - there's a quality of openness and white clarity about the architecture of that room which kind of resonated with my slowly building internal picture of the House. And the BM is of course full of statues of many kinds, and one might well discover minotaurs there (or more precisely, the Assyrian counterparts)

    Yes! Of course! I can see it now you mention it.

  • 1

    Yes - I loved it. There were just enough clues that there was clearly more going on, and it didn't have lots of the annoyances that an unreliable narrator sometimes brings - I think a stylistic achievement.

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    @BurnAfterRunning said:
    Yes - I loved it. There were just enough clues that there was clearly more going on, and it didn't have lots of the annoyances that an unreliable narrator sometimes brings - I think a stylistic achievement.

    I think it helps that the narrator wasn't unreliable in that way: Piranesi may have been naive and ignorant, but he never told us readers anything other than the truth as he understood it.

  • 1
    The unfolding mystery was definitely part of the appeal. I had to throw my first guesses out about halfway though. I wonder, though, if there was a little too much mystery to unfold. It felt rather contrived to me in the final analysis. Echoes of David Mitchell’s Slade House and perhaps The City and the City and The Magus?
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