A character that doesn’t leave


Gent Wennmo

I read slowly and even if I read as many books as I can over a year they amount to about one book a month in total. I’m jealous of my friends; some of them might read one or even two books a week. I simply can’t fit it into my schedule.

Another problem I have is that I analyse a book as read it; I guess it comes with me being an aspiring author and wanting to learn. Also, if it’s a beautifully worded book, I must stop and read a sentence several times. All of this takes a lot of time. And I’m tired. It’s astonishing how often I fall asleep with the book in my hand and have to re-read the same page for the next few nights in a row before I come to a new page.

Last night I finished Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke; a poetical, wondrous, and unique story, but also slow and agonising. When I was done, I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. It was brilliant, but at the same time I did not get out of it what I had wanted, which had been to be distracted and entertained. Thinking about it, I realised I had been distracted and entertained, but not in a way that I had wanted—it had not been a smooth and playful reading. But why?

As I write these words, it strikes me: it was because of the character Piranesi. Piranesi tells us about his daily life in a way that makes you care for him. He tells us his innermost thoughts and feelings and one cannot help but to care for him. Mostly alone in the world, he completely trusts it to care for him as he cares for it. It’s just that we know, or at least suspect, a little more than he does. So, we get entangled in these feelings for him, wishing we could do something.

And there it is: you got us feeling things, Susanna. Nice going! I only wanted to have some breezy fun reading and now I’m stuck here having feelings about a fictional character.

Even now, he is still lingering in my mind. Few characters stay with me this way. Susanna Clarke made a good job with this one and if I can create even one character like Piranesi, I will be a thrilled writer.