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Boy In Darkness Paperback – Illustrated, 12 Dec 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Owen; First edition (12 Dec 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 072061306X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0720613063
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 0.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Shows Peake to be a master of the macabre and a traveller through the deeper and darker chasms of the imagination' --The Times

Completely hair-raising --Glasgow Herald

Completely hair-raising --Glasgow Herald

About the Author

MERVYN PEAKE was born in China in 1911 of medical missionary parents. He began to draw, paint and write stories at an early age. His first book of poems, Shapes and Sounds, was published in 1941. He is best known for his Titus novels Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone, but other well-known poetry collections include The Glassblowers and The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb. He was awarded the W.H. Heinemann Foundation Prize by the Royal Society of Literature in 1950. Mervyn Peake died after a long illness in 1968

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Murray on 1 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first time Mervyn Peake's short stories have been collected together in one volume. It's a slim book, but essential if for no other reason than the republication of the title story, which is one of the great short novels of fantasy, as well as being a compact addition to Peake's Gormenghast books. The "Boy" of the title is Titus Groan at the age of fourteen, and although he goes through most of the story being called simply "the Boy" (and although Joanne Harris, in her foreword, says this is all he is ever called, he is called Titus, just once, on page 40). "Boy in Darkness" is a perfectly written nightmare, the sort that might occur after reading H G Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau while indulging in a little too much late-night cheese. Titus's night journey outside the cloying halls of Gormenghast brings him into the clutches of three of Peake's most well-drawn Dickensian grotesques, in the shape of the Goat, Hyena, and the blood-chilling Lamb, whose icy presence makes me wonder how this short novel could ever have been issued as a book for children (which it was, in 1996). How any child reading it could ever look at anything white, or soft, or quietly spoken, without a jitter of fears, I don't know, because, once you read "Boy in Darkness", the deeply evil Lamb haunts all things white, and soft, and quietly spoken, whatever age you are.

"Boy in Darkness" takes up about two thirds of this book. In comparison, some of the other tales feel rather short and light, but that is more a reflection of the title story being so good. Of the others, "I Bought a Palm-Tree" and "The Connoisseurs" are comic sketches, the former perhaps being autobiographical, the latter a neat little critique of pompous critics.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark Shackelford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will take it for granted that Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast is the finest book ever written. And that you are also totally smitten by the labyrinthine Gothic immensity of the trilogy.

This small book contains a separate Titus story (set when he was 14), plus some shorter stories, and a collection of Peake's sketches. The book itself is a delight, well laid out and with appropriate sketches throughout.

The main story ("Boy in Darkness") is really very nasty. I suspect it is a dream sequence, as the tale begins when Titus has just finished a series of "remote ceremonies the meaning of which had been long forgotten", and he is lying on his bed staring at the pattern of mildew on the ceiling.

[In his dream] he escapes from the castle through various secret passages and finds himself herded by some nightmare dogs towards a river. Crossing this river on a handy skiff, he is captured by a couple of very odd characters - the Goat and the Hyena, whose human nature has been corrupted into their animal traits by their master - the Lamb.

Perhaps it is too obvious, but the Lamb [of God?] seems to symbolise all that is bad about religion - the way that the Goat and the Hyena have given their lives (and souls) to this over powering Lamb, how the Lamb corrupts their basic humanity into following his orders without question, and how they can no longer think for themselves.

Very disturbing - and entirely unsuitable for children - unless you are a fan of some of the more horrific children's stories (Struwwelpeter comes to mind!).

There are some splendid echoes of Gormenghast, in particular when Titus "looked slowly around the room and was then suddenly arrested by a nearby face. It stared at him fiercely. ... he knew that he was looking at himself", which echoes the two eyes at the keyhole at the beginning of Titus Groan.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ibraar 'Le Saracen' TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this for the title story, and I must say, it's not quite for children. it's very dark, and quite frightening, but is beautifully written.
Gormenghast is one of my all time favorite books, and this belongs with it.
If you haven't read Gormenghast, read it, and read this before you read Titus Alone. You wont be disappointed. It's like "hearts of darkness", well it reminds me of it anyway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hudson on 2 Dec 2012
Format: Paperback
The bored, spoiled Boy escapes from his vast castle home to explore the surrounding countryside. After wandering for miles, disorientated and exhausted, he arrives in a netherworld, where he is found by Hyena and Goat, two creatures of nauseating horror. They take the Boy to see their master, Lamb, of whom they are in abject fear. Lamb prepares to play with the Boy, as he has played with all other living creatures in the netherworld.

The Boy is ripe for experimentation followed by death. He is not just any Boy, though. He is Titus Groan, who has like all of the Groan dynasty a will of iron and flint in his heart.

This is an utterly horrifying story. It is 110 pages long, and can be read right through in one dark evening, to give that authentic feeling of nocturnal terror. Goat and Hyena are such vivid, degraded beings, you seem to be able to smell them -and it is a putrefying stench. Lamb is the best of the lot - an appallingly insidious, sadistic and sexual being, who made my flesh crawl. Peake's wartime trauma in Belsen is echoed more strongly here even than in Titus Alone.

If you like horror, this is essential reading. A stunning book.
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