Happy first Friday of July! Being the first Friday of the month, I’m linking today’s post to First Line Friday by Hoarding Books. Usually in July I feature a book by Sarah Sundin because her books just scream “America!” to me. However, I’ve recently stumbled across the most fascinating little book which I am pretty sure will be a defining feature of this month for me, and I want to talk about it with anyone who will listen! So, instead of a comfortable historical fiction/Christian romance book, today I’m featuring a fantasy (I think?) book that has me outside of my typical comfort zone, and yet somehow feels a little like home.
First Line Friday is a weekly linkup hosted at Hoarding Books. To participate, share the first line of a book of your choice, add the link to the linkup on the host’s page, and check out what others are reading and sharing!
The First Line:
When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of three Tides.
About the Book
Author: Susanna Clarke
Synopsis: Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.
There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.
One of my on-and-off favorite podcasts is Speaking with Joy, hosted by Joy Clarkson. She talks about books, theology, philosophy, and so much more. I don’t think I can adequately quantify exactly what the podcast is about, but it is one of those things that you hear and just know it is good for you. Although I work in a public library, it’s a far cry from the world of academia, and sometimes I wish that I had pursued a more directly academic career. This podcast assuages some of my longing for deep conversations and guided discovery of high literature and liturgy. And, each summer, Joy “hosts” a summer book club. She picks a book, outlines a schedule, and talks about a section of the book in each podcast episode throughout the season. She also shares some discussion questions, as an encouragement to have in-person book clubs follow along, but I don’t think I will do much (if anything) with that aspect. This year she chose to read and discuss Piranesi. I trust her recommendations for the most part, so I looked the book up. When I realized it is only 245 pages and the podcast will take about 7 weeks to cover it, I decided to give it a try.
I would not have decided to read Piranesi if someone like Joy hadn’t recommended it (and agreed to walk through it – I really think that will help my enjoyment of the book!), but I’m intrigued for another reason. A few months ago I tried to read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, but I didn’t make it all the way through before spring classes started and I had to return the book to the library. I’m uncertain if I will ever go back and finish that book; it has its pros and cons and it is even farther from my comfort zone, but also comes recommended by people whom I trust. That book, like Piranesi, also features a labyrinthine house and a narrator who raises more questions than he answers even as he claims to be telling you the story. It may not make sense to anyone else, but I think if I can get through Piranesi I would feel better about leaving House of Leaves unfinished. Perhaps I don’t need to answer all the questions and figure out all of the riddles; maybe I can get just as much from this much smaller book, or maybe it will tease out themes or motifs which would help me better understand the parts of HoL which I have already read. Regardless, somehow the two books are connected in my mind, and I am hoping this one will be significantly less creepy and easier to get through. I’m also trying to convince a friend that she should read it too, since she also started HoL but didn’t finish it. Supposedly, there are connections or allusions in Piranesi to C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, and some other great writers, so I’m looking forward to that. Between the title page and the start of the story there is a quote from Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, and I’m intrigued to see how the tone that it sets plays into the story Clarke writes.
Are there any books, movies, or activities that you think will define your summer, reader? Have you read this book, or anything like it?
Until the next chapter,