by Mervyn Peake
Enter the world of Gormenghast...the vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir.
Gothic labyrinth of roofs and turrets, cloisters and corridors, stairwells and dungeons, it is also the cobwebbed kingdom of Byzantine government and age-old rituals, a world primed to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder.
Gormenghast is more than a sequel to Titus Groan - it is an enrichment and deepening of that book.The fertility of incident, character and rich atmosphere combine in a tour de force that ranks as one of the twentieth century's most remarkable feats of imaginative writing.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 512 pages, illustrations
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 21/02/1998
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780749394820
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by TerrapinJetta
Really enjoyed the first book, not so much the others because I didn't relate as much to the characters. Also, the mad owl earl was totally awesome.
Review by sashmigosh
One of the best books ever written!
Review by sgerbic
Reviewed Feb 2005 In this second novel by Peake the author becomes more detailed and numbers his chapters instead of titling as he did in his last novel. The story closely follows the movie it end with the Death of Steerpike and Titus leaving on horseback to seek his destiny. Oddly there is another novel "Titus Alone" I am curious to see what happens to him, but am almost afraid to read it as it probably deals with him just riding around - living off the land and finally coming back home ready to rule. I found the death of Fucia unnecessary and anticlimactic. As well as the character, "the Thing" what was that all about. Surly Titus could have learned about freedom some other way. As far as the story being believable it really reached to imagine that the valley and the castle could be flooded so quickly with little rain. The countess states to Titus that there is nowhere but Gormenghast, there must be other countries. Why is there no trade. where does the countess come from, what is her history? Were is Titus and Fucia supposed to find mates? He details the surroundings but never answers the basic questions. 6-2005
Review by dmsteyn
'… when, before a masterpiece, the acid throat contracts, and words are millstones…' - p.535 of the Illustrated Trilogy‘Words are millstones’ – too true, and Peake’s Gormenghast, being a masterpiece, presents one with an equally weighty task when trying to review it. The second book in what is erroneously known as the ‘Gormenghast Trilogy’ (it is not a trilogy, and Peake preferred to call them the Titus novels), Gormenghast continues the story of Titus Groan, 77th Earl of Groan, from his seventh year up to his coming of age. It portrays Titus’ development from callow youth to rebellious adolescent, ending with what Peake describes as Titus ‘outgrowing his kingdom’. There are also various subplots that illuminate the themes of loyalty and rebellion, from the continued rise of the main antagonist, Steerpike, to a delightful (if indulgent) subplot involving the faculty of Titus’ educators, in which his headmaster, Bellgrove, finds love in the most unexpected of places.Like Titus Groan, the first book in the cycle, Gormenghast is mainly concerned with an exploration of character: it has even been called a ‘fantasy of manners’. You will find neither magic in the novel, nor such pseudo-medieval accoutrements as knights or wizards. There is no map at the beginning of the book. You will search in vain for elves, dwarves or dragons. Peake writes more in the tradition of Dickens than Tolkien, although to say he writes in a tradition is misleading. Nothing quite resembles Gormenghast, not even the other two books in the series. Whereas Titus Groan was a much more contained novel, relating only about a year’s action, Gormenghast stretches the bounds of the Bildungsroman, while Titus Alone will go off on a whole other tangent, with its theme of the stranger in a strange land. Gormenghast is hard to describe, except as the emanation of a truly original mind.Peake writes with the eye of an artist, which he was. But he is more than merely a good setter of scenes. He is equally adept at creating tension, eliciting emotion, and plotting his novel. The book can also be unexpectedly funny – Peake likes to tease the reader with his wordplay, but also with straight-faced asides that can be hilarious. For instance, in this passage, the young students of Gormenghast are playing an illicit game with hand-held catapults:'There had been a time when clay – and even glass marbles were used; but after the third death and a deal of confusion in the hiding of the bodies, it was decided to be content with paper bullets.'This is so unexpected, and delivered with such deadpan seriousness, that I could not help but roar with laughter. The image of seven-year olds nonchalantly disposing of the bodies of their classmates – with a ‘deal of confusion’, at that – tickles the sadist in me, I guess. But Peake can also be heart-achingly sombre and serious. The fate of Fuchsia, Titus’ dreamy, awkward sister, had me in tears near the end of the book. This is thanks to Peake’s amazing skill at characterisation: he draws out the peculiarities of each of his cast, forming fully-rounded personalities. My favourite character has to be Dr. Prunesquallor. Not only is he a hilariously verbose dandy, but he is also a man of discerning tastes and extreme intelligence, with a compassionate heart to boot.The two main characters, according to my interpretation of the book, are Titus and Steerpike. They represent opposites who are, however, subtly intertwined. Titus, the privileged golden boy, seems a far cry from Steerpike, the former kitchen boy who, through deceit and skulduggery, scaled his way to a position of rank in the Gormenghast hierarchy. They are both, however, rebels at heart, willing to subvert the ancient laws of Gormenghast to reach their goals. Yet there are differences between them even on this front, differences of method and scale. Whereas Steerpike is willing to do anything to gain stature, with rebellion serving only as a means to an end, Titus only wishes to escape the deadening influence of Gormenghast and its superfluous rituals. Steerpike is brilliant, but, to take an image from Terry Pratchett, he is brilliant like the shards of a smashed mirror, all twinkling with bright points of light, but irrevocably broken. Titus is humane and caring, if somewhat confused and powerless throughout much of the novel. By the end of the story, he will have gained his independence from Gormenghast, but not without paying the cost of innocence lost.As I said at the beginning of the review, Gormenghast is a masterpiece. It has minor flaws – Peake can stray into some seemingly pointless plotlines, and he is not immune to the odd bit of purple prose – but these flaws are really part of the charm of the work. They highlight the risk of absurdity and irrelevance that Peake walked in writing such an original work. The fact that he manages to pull off this tightrope act with the barest hints of overbalancing only emphasises what a brilliant fantasist he was.
Review by jmoncton
2nd in the Gormenghast trilogy - better than the first which was very good. Eager to move onto book 3!