After a lengthy hiatus from writing, author Susanna Clarke is set to release a new book. Sixteen years after her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell became a world-wide bestseller, Clarke will release an alternate-history novel that sounds like it could be set in the same world. Bloomsbury will publish the novel – titled Piranesi – in September of 2020. The official synopsis is below.
Susanna Clarke To Release New Book: Piransei
“Piranesi has always lived in the House. It has hundreds if not thousands of rooms and corridors, imprisoning an ocean. A watery labyrinth. Once in a while he sees his friend, The Other, who needs Piranesi for his scientific research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.”
The synopsis for the novel reads like a Victorian version of House of Leaves, replete with a spooky old house that might contain multiple dimensions. The bit of information given here teases many questions. Much like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell it sounds like Piransei will follow a set of friends. Will Piransei and The Other become antagonists as well? And what is the ‘great and secret knowledge’ that they are researching? It sounds like the house in the novel is a world unto itself that will be interesting to explore. But why is the ocean imprisoned? What is the science of this strange world?
Building Off The Success Of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Clarke made a name for herself with a similarly uncanny alternate version of our world when she published Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in 2004. That novel follows a pair of dueling magicians in 19th-century England where magic still exists, although just barely. Otherworldly elements such as devious Fae characters are also integral to this complex world. The tome of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is more than 1,000 pages, and reportedly took Clarke over a decade to complete. So perhaps her lengthy hiatus from publishing was simply because she was (secretly) working on Piransei the entire time.
Jonathan Strange (BERTIE CARVEL) – (C) JSMN Ltd – Photographer: Matt Squire via BBC One
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell released to critical acclaim, selling more than four million copies worldwide. It won the Hugo award for best novel in 2005. The BBC also adapted Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell into an excellent mini-series that aired in 2015. It is currently available to stream on Netflix.
A follow-up collection of short stories set in the same world came out in 2006 – The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. So it is possible that Clarke is still working within the same alternate-history world that she created so many years ago. But the synopsis for Piransei sounds like Clarke is constructing a new world to play in with the House. Its hundreds (or thousands) of rooms are sure to contain multitudes of stories to explore.
Piransei Is A “Perfectly Constructed Novel”
According to the publisher, Clarke dropped Piransei unexpectedly on them after it was already complete. “There are a few moments in an agent’s life when something so unexpected and so wonderful pops up in your inbox, you can’t quite believe it,” says Johnny Geller of Curtis Brown. “Susanna hinted she may be writing again after such a long hiatus, but I never really believed a fully imagined world, a perfectly constructed novel, would just be sitting there.”
Susanna Clarke is set to release her new book Piransei next fall. According to The Bookseller, another novel by Clarke is set to follow Piransei although there is no word on whether or not this book will be in the same universe.Stay tuned for more news and updates.
(Featured image is cover art for the Bloomsbury Modern Classic paperback edition of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Art by Dan Mumford. Image via Bloomsbury.)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.