Caitrin Keiper at The New Atlantis:
In Susanna Clarke’s fantasy novel Piranesi, we meet an exceptionally innocent narrator who dates his life from a sublime encounter he has with an albatross. As the bird comes swooping toward him, he has a vision that they could merge into a being he knows of but has never seen — “an Angel!” — and imagines how he will fly through the world with “messages of Peace and Joy.” When he and the albatross do not become one, he instead offers it a gracious welcome, and helps it gather materials for a warm, dry nest. He sacrifices his own resources to do this, “but what is a few days of feeling cold compared to a new albatross in the World?” From this point on, his detailed notebooks refer to “the Year the Albatross came to the South-Western Halls.”
The man called Piranesi (though he correctly senses that is not really his name) is one of only two human inhabitants in what he calls the House, a labyrinth of marble halls and ocean life and statues of people and nature and legend. Piranesi’s many energies are devoted to exploring and documenting the House with care.