Tag Archives: Book Club Reading List

Review: Piranesi

Piranesi

Piranesi
By Susanna Clarke
Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635577808, September 2021, 272pp.

The Short of It:

Wildly imaginative. 

The Rest of It:

Our main character is called Piranesi, although he knows this is not his real name. He lives in a house with many halls and rooms. Each room is filled with beautiful statues in various stages of decomposition. Many, damaged by the birds or the harsh salt water environment. Because you see, this “house” has been taken over by the tides and the sea life within it. Fog rolls in. Rain is the only source of fresh water. Piranesi lives here with one Other, literally called “Other” and he tends to the many remains of those who came before him. 

I am not  much of a fantasy reader but from page two, I was completely sucked into this story. For one, the writing is lovely. Two, I could “see” this house in my mind. And although it’s a lonely kind of story, Piranesi is a happy person, content with keeping track of the tides and his research. But as you read, many questions come to mind. How did he get there? What has happened to civilization? Why doesn’t he leave?

I read an interview with the author and how she was suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome while writing this. How she felt so isolated from the real world, while tending to her debilitating illness. This definitely played a role in how the story plays out. The isolation is palpable but so is hope. 

This story is so different and refreshing. There’s enough of a mystery to pull you in, but your heart will be with Piranesi as he tries to piece this all together. It’s a fascinating read. I really need to own a nice physical copy of this one. I can see myself picking it up again to read soon. A classic. 

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Hamnet

Hamnet

Hamnet
By Maggie O’Farrell
Vintage, 9781984898876, May 2021, 320pp.

The Short of It:

Did you know that Hamnet and Hamlet are one in the same?

The Rest of It:

Maggie O’Farrell wanted to give a voice to the boy we knew so little about. Hamnet, the son of William Shakespeare, who died at the age of eleven. The thing is, there is no record of Hamnet’s cause of death, anywhere. His death is believed to be caused by the plague, but no where is this confirmed. In O’Farrell’s novel, the way Hamnet dies is quite different from what you’d expect. Cracking open that first page of a book titled HAMNET, and especially since the author wanted nothing more than to give a voice to this boy, you’d expect the story to be all about Hamnet, but instead, it’s about his mother, Agnes and really motherhood in general.

As I was reading this book, I fell into the flow of the writing. It seemed poetic to me. I lingered here and there because of how melodious the words were as they rolled off the page. This was, dare I say it, a pleasant read even though it’s about death, the plague, and grief.

Telling us about Hamnet, through the grief of his mother was an interesting choice. Powerful at times, but there was a tiny touch of magical realism (in my opinion) that took me out of the narrative for a minute and I was left reading that section over and over again to make sense of it and to consider why the author chose to go that route.

We discussed this for my book club. I’d say that most liked it a lot, some loved it, a couple weren’t impressed. I loved the writing but honestly,  I expected more of Hamnet and his famous father. William Shakespeare is never named in the story. He’s the boy’s father, the Latin tutor, and eventually the playwright. It’s not until the very end that you are even introduced to his craft. I will say that the ending was quite thoughtful and a touch sad.

This is a book that will stay with me, even though it left me wanting more.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.