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The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy Hardcover – October 27, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Mervyn Peake's gothic masterpiece, the Gormenghast trilogy, begins with the superlative Titus Groan, a darkly humorous, stunningly complex tale of the first two years in the life of the heir to an ancient, rambling castle. The trilogy continues with the novels Gormenghast and Titus Alone, and all three books are bound together in this single-volume edition.

The Gormenghast royal family, the castle's decidedly eccentric staff, and the peasant artisans living around the dreary, crumbling structure make up the cast of characters in these engrossing stories. Peake's command of language and unique style set the tone and shape of an intricate, slow-moving world of ritual and stasis:

"The walls of the vast room which were streaming with calid moisture, were built with gray slabs of stone and were the personal concern of a company of eighteen men known as the 'Grey Scrubbers'.... On every day of the year from three hours before daybreak until about eleven o'clock, when the scaffolding and ladders became a hindrance to the cooks, the Grey Scrubbers fulfilled their hereditary calling."

Peake has been compared to Dickens, Tolkien, and Peacock, but the Gormenghast trilogy is truly unique. Unforgettable characters with names like Steerpike and Prunesquallor make their way through an architecturally stifling world, with lots of dark corners around to dampen any whimsy that might arise. This true classic is a feast of words unlike anything else in the world of fantasy. Those who explore Gormenghast castle will be richly rewarded. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"His novels, said Burgess, are 'aggressively three-dimensional... showing the poet as well as the draughtsman. It is difficult in post-war English fiction to get away with big rhetorical gestures. Peake manages it because, with him, grandiloquence never means diffuseness' there is no musical emptiness in the most romantic of his descriptions. He is always exact. . [Titus Groan] remains essentially a work of the closed imagination, in which a world parallel to our own is presented in almost paranoiac denseness of detail. But the madness is illusory, and control never falters. It is, if you like, a rich wine of fancy chilled by the intellect to just the right temperature. There is no really close relative to it in all our prose literature. It is uniquely brilliant.'" Anthony Burgess "Dark, dense, baroque and hauntingly beautiful. Peake's lush prose and imagery are a pleasure to any lover of the beauty of the written word. A word of warning, however: this one takes its time. Most readers are used to more watery offerings - this is thick, creamy and extra-rich" -- Carlos Ruiz-Zafron Guardian "A master of the macabre and a traveller through the deeper and darker chasms of the imagination" The Times "I discovered it at 15 and have been rediscovering it ever since. It's a profoundly enchanting world, but there are no elves or spells the magic is purely in the writing" Joanne Harris "I started reading it and did not stop.The images conjured up the most weird visions. Images that I had not encountered since absorbing my first introduction to the world of William Blake. It is a fantastic, almost surrealistic flow of vision" -- Ronald Searle --This text refers to the Digital edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 960 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590207173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590207178
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

220 of 232 people found the following review helpful By J. T. Nite on August 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
The first two Gormenghast novels are unlike any other books I've ever read. They seem to be fantasy, set in a huge crumbling castle and involving a huge, crumbling aristocratic family. But unlike most fantasy, there's no quest -- no saving the princess, no strange journey, not much of a plot to speak of.
It's less reading than pure immersion -- you sink into this castle and its characters, follow them about their daily lives, get to know them and the castle. Peake's prose is intensely visual; he's an eloquent tour guide, pointing out the strange sights and marvels around every corner.
There is a plot, of course, but it moves slowly across the two books, detailing a scheming kitchen boy's rise to power in the decaying monarchy. As I said before, the plot's not the point -- the characters, the atmosphere, the *experience* are what will keep you reading. I've never lived in a book like I did with these.
Unfortunately, the last (and shortest) of the trilogy takes a different tack with much less success. "Titus Alone" follows the heir to the Gormenghast throne as he leaves the castle and ventures into the world. Peake makes two major mistakes: he leaves behind the castle, which is the main character in the previous books, and he focuses on the picaresque plot instead of Titus' character. A little science fiction also creeps in, and seems wildly out of place. "Titus Alone" is just a series of sometimes amusing scenes. They don't develop Titus' character or introduce us to any memorable people -- a stark contrast to the first two novels, which are full of strange and wondrous folk.
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109 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Carl Miffleton on January 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Titus Groan" by Mervyn Peake is among the greatest works rendered in the English language. It is a work of fantasy, yet resembles nothing that came before it or since. Although this masterpiece is acknowledged by critics and a coterie of obsessed readers (such as myself), it is, sadly, almost unknown in the United States. It is,perhaps, too British or too eccentric. Gormenghast is an ancient castle, about the size of a city, which, as far as we know, is the only thing on the planet. Having no known point of reference to the world we know gives the novel its characteristic unreality-- its surreal atmosphere. The characters are uniformly grotesque: the taciturn, cadaver-like Mr. Flay, the vulgar and grossly obese Swelter, the slightly deformed yet brilliant villain Steerpike. Titus is the heir to Gormenghast-- the seventy-seventh earl of Groan-- and this is his story (although the first book of three ends with the hero only two years old). The focus is on the visual descriptions, and the world of Gormenghast is vividly shown through Peake's breathtaking command of the language. Peake was a graphic artist by profession and his skill with paint and pencil somehow translates into images that resonate in the reader's mind long after he or she has finished reading. Ultimately, it is impossible to shake the experience of visiting Peake's imaginary world. I read this book for the first time at age 17 (I'm now 42) and have been haunted by it since. Gormenghast is like a nightmare world and no sane person would ever want to live there; yet, how strangely beautiful and compelling it is! Gormenghast draws one back to it time and time again. It is what I call "the lure of Gormenghast.Read more ›
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Grant on December 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I postponed buying this new hardcover illustrated edition of the Gormenghast Trilogy for several weeks, hoping that someone would post an Amazon review describing it physically, or that Amazon would allow us to look inside it, or that the publisher would be a little more descriptive on its website, but no one came through, so I took the plunge and bought it anyway, and I just unwrapped it. Here's a review telling you what I had hoped someone else would tell me:

1) The binding is (wine and white) paper over board.

2) Signatures are clearly visible, but I can't see any stitching.

3) In a few spots in my copy, the binding appears to be on the verge of breaking. I will be surprised if it survives unbroken through one reading. It's hard to glue together a book this thick and have it hold, I think.

4) The printing is crisp and clear, and the paper is acceptable: Probably a little below what you'd expect from Everyman's or the Library of America, but above the quality of the current Penguin's hardcover classics, for example. It's clearly superior to what's in Overlook's paperback edition.

5) The artwork is fairly sparse and idiosyncratic, but it's by the author, so what can you say?

I'm glad I went ahead and bought this edition.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
For sheer, sustained, imaginative power; an unfailing attention to character detail (Dickens' caricatures had none of this realism); a brooding, dark humour that goes deeper
than any other work I can think of against a backdrop of unimaginably stifling rigidity and routine, Gormenghast has not been bettered by anyone in any genre. Full-stop.
Titus Groan acts almost as an appetizer for the grandeur of the second in the trilogy. The immensity of the crumbling castle, it's labyrinthine corridors, rooms and even roofs is conveyed by Mervyn Peake with such believability that it's image never leaves you,
even years after it's read. Yet it is the goings-on within it's grey walls that leave the greatest impression. I can still see the scheming Steerpike, the sour Fuschia, Swelter the cook, the Prunesquallors and Titus 77th Earl of Groan as clearly as if I'd just met them.
One can almost feel the stifling grip the castle holds over Titus as he struggles to break free of the asphyxiating tradition of his home. To even try to convey what this trilogy is about would be
trite and pointless. The odd world of Gormenghast has to be experienced. Read them and be changed.
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