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The Gormenghast Novels (Titus Groan / Gormenghast / Titus Alone) Paperback – Illustrated, December 1, 1995
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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
- Item Weight : 1.95 pounds
- Paperback : 1200 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0879516283
- ISBN-13 : 978-0879516284
- Product Dimensions : 5.75 x 2.25 x 8.15 inches
- Publisher : Overlook Press; Illustrated Edition (December 1, 1995)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #73,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But when I started to read this I was hooked.
The author, Mervyn Peake writes like a painter or visual artist. You get every nuance from the scenes and characters as if you were looking at a magnificent painting or watching the greatest film.
The prose is absolute poetry as he was known chiefly as an illustrator and poet. I cannot describe how majestic these works are. Written in the mid 20th century it has more of a 19th-century feel which I adore. Think Poe with Dickens, maybe.
The story is a coming of age one, but really that doesn't happen with the eponymous character until late in this set of novels.
What you get are gorgeous descriptions of a land that is so far off in anybody's imagination that you will be nonplussed at the ingenuity and grandeur of it all. And again the prose, magnificent. If you don't like adjectives and beautiful word games go no further.
It's very dark, very weird, and above all extremely poignant. A fantasy that has reality tethered to the outrageousness of it all.
Possibly my favorite books of all time.
Gormenghast. Try a couple of pages and if you are not amazed then it's not for you.
Gormenghast is what I would term a winter's tale, with a distinctive "Dark Side" and won't suit those who are merely looking for a "ripping yarn" or a book to skim through on the beach. No. Its style is definitely Gothic and those who enjoy a well crafted saga with unforgettable characters and who can persevere will remember it years later. If you read and enjoyed the Harry Potter novels either for your own pleasure or for that of your children I would definitely urge you to buy this book. While its complexity hints that it was not written for children an intelligent adolescent with a good vocabulary will find many happy hours of reading and daydreaming between its covers.
I venture to say that those who enter the realm of Mervyn Peake with an open mind will in time find themselves engrossed, as I was, firstly at the man's imagination that he could create and sustain such a world and then astonished at the incredible ability he had for fleshing out the multitude of characters: some of whom almost walk off the pages and others who might best be left in the dark tunnels of the huge pile of stones that is Gormenghast.
Top reviews from other countries
More gothic than the Sisters of Mercy on a winter holiday to Whitby.
I love it.
This particular edition seems to have a lot of small printing errors in it - in many places phrases like "a long" or "a lot" are shortened into a single word. I don't remember my old copy having so many annoying mistakes, although it was a good while ago that I read it, but this one really grates on me so I'm assuming it's just this particular edition.
Annoyance aside, the trilogy is well worth a read for anyone who likes a well-rounded world and characters.
Mervyn Peake's series of works was published in the following order: Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950) and Titus Alone (1959). In 1970, Penguin Classics published a handsome boxed set of the three illustrated paperback volumes - which is where I came in... For the last four decades I have been delighted to walk the stony corridors of Gormenghast.
Penguin published the novels again in 1983 but this time in one volume with some of Mervyn's own illustrations and with over 1,000 pages to savour. In 1984, BBC Radio 4 broadcast two 90-minute plays based on Titus Groan and Gormenghast, adapted by Brian Sibley and starring Sting and Freddie Jones. In early 2000, the BBC produced and broadcast a four-episode serial, entitled Gormenghast which was based on the first two books of the series. The glittering cast included Christopher Lee, Celia Imrie, Ian Richardson, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Stephen Fry, Warren Mitchell, John Sessions and Zoë Wanamaker.
The trilogy, which has also been published by Folio, by Mandarin and by Methuen, has been described as a celebrated modernist fantasy and although Mervyn Peake was a talented and visionary artist, the story works better on the printed page. The imagination of the reader is much bolder than the limitations of the screen. The first books are a brilliant sojourn in the suffocating castle, trapped within the stone walls like dust motes, in the established ritual which governs the lives of the Groan family and their retainers. The characters which populate the Castle are unlike anyone else you will ever meet - from the highest Lord to the menial kitchen boys, all beautifully drawn.
In April 2003, the Gormenghast books were voted number 84 in BBC Big Read - not very high on the list but it's placed higher than Frankenstein, Dracula and Moby Dick!
I expect that shortly there will be a resurgence of interest in the works of Mervyn Peake when the long-lost sequel to the trilogy is published. Titus Awakes will be published next year, to mark the centenary of Peake's birth. 2011 will also see the release of a new illustrated edition of the Gormenghast trilogy, complete with 60 never-before-seen drawings by Peake which his son, Sebastian, is placing within the novel. So if you have not yet read the Titus books or need to read them again, get ahead of the crowd and be ready for the sequel. Mervyn Peake deserves to be recognised as the genius which he was.
If you want to join in discussions about Mervyn Peake's work, go to the Facebook group called The Grey Scrubbers - see you there!
Gormenghast resulted in a great many discussions and being told how evil Steerpike was and how could I view him as misunderstood.
My Line Manager had a big birthday earlier in the year, so I brought him this Trilogy in Hardback - his paperbacks were extremely old - it is a beautiful book, and he was delighted with it, and has re-read it.
His copy has been inscribed "Steerpike was misunderstood" which brought a smile.
Excellent story around the Gormenghast Castle, and the descriptions and the plots and twists are well written.
Would recommend the first two parts to anyone.
The first book starts off slowly, immersing you into a world where little really happens. The greatness is in the characters themselves. I have never read any books before or after where the characters are as memorable, they just build such a strong picture of themselves. Despite the slow start the book picks up at the end, and things get quite a bit more interesting.
Building on the first book, the second really starts becoming a good book. The plotline become much stronger, and all those random things start merging into something conceivable. It doesnt have the feel of just irregular chapters the first book does, and it even keeps you on the edge of your seat in places. Easily the best of the three, and after reading it you will be glad you read the first book to have built such a picture of gormenghast in your head.
The third book on the other hand was unfinished by the author, and it does feel like reading a first draft all the way through. The chapters are very short, and there are a lot of them. Most of the characters are one sided, with maybes only 2 or 3 being brought to life in the way the characters from the other two books were. I finished reading this for the sake of completeness, and was left dissapointed, as it ended soon after it was finally becoming interesting.
Overall the book is definately worth buying, although the writing does show its age more than other books from the same period. really anybody who enjoys being immersed in a fantasy world, and doesnt mind a bit of darkness and gothic style will like this book.