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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Fantasy
I have never read anything like this before. I am a huge fan of fantasy, but Mervyn Peake's style is truly unique. The trilogy is epic in proportion even though the first two books are set almost exclusively within the confines of Ghormenghast Castle. The characters are fascinating, complex and mad as badgers, every one. I loved these people. Peake writes with such...
Published on 4 Sep 2003 by Florence Montgomery

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138 of 144 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed!
I had pre-ordered this and having recently seen a stunning exhibition of Peake's drawings, was eagerly looking forward to its publication. I have to say that I am sadly disappointed though. The paper quality feels cheap and horrible and does not do the illustrations justice. I was also expecting the pictures to be more central to the volume but I do not feel they have...
Published on 22 Jun 2011 by Mrs C Savage


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Fantasy, 4 Sep 2003
I have never read anything like this before. I am a huge fan of fantasy, but Mervyn Peake's style is truly unique. The trilogy is epic in proportion even though the first two books are set almost exclusively within the confines of Ghormenghast Castle. The characters are fascinating, complex and mad as badgers, every one. I loved these people. Peake writes with such descriptive love that you care about the characters and what happens to them. He creates such sympathy between you and the characters that you care despite their many flaws. My favourite character was Steerpike, and in anyone elses hands this character would have been odious, but I found myself on his side! The last book is perhaps the weakest, mainly because it is the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Castle that creates alot of the tension and atmosphere in the book, and having moved to pastures new in the last the tension is somewhat lacking. That said still a great read.
A deep, dark enthralling story which will keep you turning pages, and leave you with a slight aching sadness when you finish it.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the few square centimetres inside your head, 1 Nov 2003
Reading this book is like being fully immersed in an utterly fantastic world. The way of life is described in microscopic detail until the existance of a world outside gormenghast becomes unreal. When Titus ventures out of the castle, the world (and indeed our world) by comparison is a pale, washed out image of reality. This is a book with which I have become far more emotionally involved than anything I have read before or since. Every reading feels like a homecoming. Peake's imagery is beautifully, indulgently rich, and the prose has been written with constant precision I defy you to find one single line which does not read like poetry.
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138 of 144 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed!, 22 Jun 2011
I had pre-ordered this and having recently seen a stunning exhibition of Peake's drawings, was eagerly looking forward to its publication. I have to say that I am sadly disappointed though. The paper quality feels cheap and horrible and does not do the illustrations justice. I was also expecting the pictures to be more central to the volume but I do not feel they have been made the focus as I would expect in an "Illustrated" version. The prints seem pale against the page. Many are quite small and even the full page plates lack any impact at all. Such a shame.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STUNNING AND UNIQUE, 1 Sep 2001
By 
This review is from: The Gormenghast Trilogy: Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone (Paperback)
When I stumbled across the Gormenghast Trilogy at a second-hand bookshop I had never heard of Mervyn Peake or his books. It must have been fate that I picked it up on a whim and bought it, because I found it to be one of the most gorgeous and fascinating books I have ever read. It is completely unique. Some readers who like genre fantasy have trouble with these books because they do not fit into the established fantasy mode. However, readers with open minds who love enchanting images, delightful weirdness and vivid, poetic language will be entranced. The descriptions gleam in your memory long after you have finished reading. Oh, and if you're wondering why the third book is so disjointed, it is because the author was close to dying and suffering from Parkinson's disease at the time. I still think that he did better than most writers do in the best of health. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the BBC drama series worked. Of course it fell short of the books - what movie adaptations don't - but it was a fantastic effort. Neve Macintosh was perfect as my all-time favourite character Fuchsia.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gothic Extravaganza, 1 Mar 2001
This review is from: The Gormenghast Trilogy: Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone (Paperback)
The Gormenghast Trilogy consists of two wonderful books, Titus Groan and Gormenghast, and one dreadfully confused book Titus Alone. I recommend the reader work through all three but really, the first two can be read alone perfectly satisfactorily. Mr Peake invokes an ancient castle set in no particular time where ritual has become as much part of the fabric of life as food or clothes or sleep. For Titus, young heir to the kingdom, there is no escaping the drudgery of ritual. Every day of the year his movements are proscribed by the ancient tomes that are cared for and interpreted first by Sourdust, then Barquentine and finally the arch villain, Steerpike. The atmosphere is Gothic, surreal, as menacing and slow as a quicksand. The characters are bizarre freaks moving against the dark, grim backdrop of the castle. Overwhelmed by all this tradition, Titus rebels and quickly finds himself at odds with the very fabric of his ancient home. His allies and his enemies take their sides and begin their macabre dance and, to use Mr Peake's phrase, "Titus is wading through his childhood." Fantastic stuff.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, still lots of typos, 2 Aug 2011
By 
Bruce Mardle (Wroxall, Isle of Wight United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I won't go into detail about the stories themselves except to say that I think that the 1st 2 books of the trilogy are in my top 3 fictional books in modern English.

The 2011 hardback Vintage Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy is an improvement over Vintage's previous edition (which was Meridian's beforehand) in that they've got rid of some of the flagrant typos that were such a blight. Unfortunately, a lot still remain. They seem to be the result of bad optical character recognition (and inadequate proof-reading), e.g. "torn cat" instead of "tom cat", "day" instead of "clay", "splinteririg" instead of "splintering"! That doesn't explain "corosive", though. Don't these people have a spelling checker? I'm sure the edition I gave to a friend in 2001 didn't have nearly as many typos; alas, I can't remember the publisher.

Those who've seen previous editions will be familiar with many of Peake's illustrations. This edition has more of the same (though, for some reason, the picture of the starving girl, whom Titus takes home to Juno, has gone).
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76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good book, bad edition, 26 Nov 2004
By A Customer
The book itself is excellent, great atmosphere etc. as everyone else has already said...however I give it 4 stars and am writing on here due to the fact that it's absolutely full of printing errors and has a habit of turning phrases like 'a long finger' into 'along finger'.
So if that kind of thing annoys you...just a warning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Virtuosic Achievement; A Triumph of Imagination, 3 Dec 1997
By A Customer
Why is this book not given the recognition it deserves? Those who have read it cannot fail to be impressed by its power; Anthony Burgess hailed it as one of the best books of the century, and deservedly so. Peake has a virtuosic imagination. He is one of those few, remarkable writers who write with such sensual clarity that the reader reads 'through' the words on the page into an eidetic experience of the depicted world: that phenomenon uniquely capable in great literature in which writing is magically transparent to experience. He is arguably the best descriptive writer in literature, which makes his achievement all the more remarkable for being a work of pure imagination. For instance, to arbitrarily pick one example out of a book in which every scene is so imagined, the battle between Flay and Swelter in the spiderweb filled attic is a masterpiece of an imaginatively observed reality, rendered with such intense immediacy that one is there, observing every step, every parry, every iota of anxiety and tension moment to moment. And all in grand and beautiful language. (Truly gorgeous language. It may sound ridiculous, but I don't think I exaggerate when I say Peake's use of language is to 20th century english what Gibbon's was to the 18th: grand, sublime, precise, graceful, hypnotic, in love with words and language.) And though his characters are largely grotesques, he writes of them with such sympathy and with such spot-on characterization that he makes them credible living breathing entities. But his skill is not limited to description or characterization. He is able to capture complex and subtle relationships with surgical precision. To arbitrarily pick another example, the courtship scene between Bellgrove and Irma must rank as one of the most brilliantly comical set pieces in literature due to its farcical accuracy. To classify this work as fantasy is a disservice to his achievement. 'The Gormeghast Trilogy' transcends genre just as 'Moby Dick' transcends a fishing tale. Because while Peake's remarkable technical prowess alone should guarantee his place in the pantheon of great 20th century writers, it's his profound, and profoundly subtle, exploration of the motives behind--and effects of--power, complacency, ritual, and decay that puts him squarely in the center of the 20th century. If authors are the products of their history, then the Gormenghast trilogy provides an existential snapshot of the postwar years as only a handful of other works do (eg, Catch-22). The first book, as another reviewer here said, is like the appetizer for the second. The second book is the heart of the trilogy. The third book, as has also been remarked here, is the weakest. It is a great loss to literature that Peake lost his powers so early to illness in what should've been a long career. There are few books that can provide such ample rewards to the receptive reader. Once one enters Peake's world they never forget it. Though it is currently one of the unknown great works in world literature, I hope it will one day find its rightful place in the catalogue of literary masterpieces. It is a unique book, a triumph of imagination. Often a work of fiction is called 'an experience'; 'The Gormeghast Trilogy' is one of the few works in which such an ascription is not perjorative.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can hear the very plot in action!, 25 July 1999
By A Customer
Mervin Peake is one of the best writers I have ever had the joy of reading.
His style of gothic fantasy is so descriptive that you can actually hear the plot in action, and see the world that Titus explores in the very pages of the book.
Peake is someone who knows the benefits of immersing the reader in the story, and he does this with detail. Nothing is lost on Peake, and every word is crammed with descriptive power.
Peake does not clog up his novel with boring and useless detail, but instead asks the reader to join him in his Gormenghast, that he obviously has locked up inside his head.
The trilogy containss three very clever books, from an intelligent author. The plots are fantastic and it is an effort to put the book down. With all three now between two covers, you may be stuck reading for a very long time.
Peake was inspired when writing this trilogy, and although he was suffering from Parkinson's disease whilst writing "Titus Alone", the extra madness thrown into the plot just helps add to the confusion that all the characters, and not just Titus are feeling.
I read the book at 15 and could relate well to the emotions experienced by Titus throughout.
These books are fantastic.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic heaven, 26 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Gormenghast Trilogy: Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone (Paperback)
There is no other book that I can think of that transported me so completely into its world as The Gormenghast Trilogy. Never before have I been so utterly absorbed by a book (and I've read a lot of books). When I finished it and was singing its praises to my friends, a few people said 'What happens in it then?' to which I found myself replying, 'Well, that doesn't really matter'. Because the thing that makes the Gormenghast books enchanting is the detail, the description, the characters. One of the things that I most loved was that initially, none of the characters seemed to have any redeeming features at all, but as the trilogy progressed, they became more and more complex and started to surprise me. Peake's characters are often compared to those of Dickens, but despite the fantastic setting, they will seem more real and vivid to you than anything Dickens ever wrote.
By the way, the accident in the schoolroom in Vol 2 is one of the funniest things I have ever read, although like everything in the Gormenghast trilogy, it's very, very dark. I can't say that Gormenghast was the most cheerful thing I've ever read, but as soon as I'd finished it, I started straight again.
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