Piranesi: Susanna Clarke’s enchanting, extravagant fusion of magic and memory

Book review: The writer’s long-awaited second novel lives up to the hype

Fans of Susanna Clarke’s bestselling debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, will not be disappointed by her latest. File photograph: David Sleator

Fans of Susanna Clarke’s bestselling debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, will not be disappointed by her latest. File photograph: David Sleator

Fifteen years have passed since Susanna Clarke captivated the imaginations of four million readers worldwide with her bestselling debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Her epic tale of 19th-century England, in which two magicians emerge to change history, was unlike anything published before – the 782-page fusion of magic, mythology and the fantastic with Austen-esque Regency manners proved irresistible.

In the ensuing silence, Clarke’s legion of newly devoted fans had reason to believe it was a feat so extraordinary that the novelist could not, or would not, dare to repeat it. With the exception of an anthology of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, that was set in the world of Jonathan Strange and published soon afterwards in 2005, there has been no white smoke rising from the chimney of Clarke’s home in Derbyshire. Until now.

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