Customer Reviews


50 Reviews
5 star:
 (31)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most pleasure I ever had from a book
I first read this when I was 14 whilst recovering from a chill, and I devoured it in a couple of days. I have read it, and its companions, 'Gormenghast' and 'Titus Alone', five or six times since, and hope and expect to read them a few more times yet.

You read these books for their extraordinary prose, which has a flavour somewhere in the region between Dickens...
Published on 15 Jan 2008 by John Ferngrove

versus
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear
Oh dear. What a shame. I read this book years ago and it is fantastic. I suspect the kindle version has been scanned using some sort of OCR software which has made too many annoying mistakes. Why don't the publishers proof read? Get the paperback...Great book, shame about the lazy publishing.
Published on 18 May 2012 by michaeli m


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most pleasure I ever had from a book, 15 Jan 2008
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I first read this when I was 14 whilst recovering from a chill, and I devoured it in a couple of days. I have read it, and its companions, 'Gormenghast' and 'Titus Alone', five or six times since, and hope and expect to read them a few more times yet.

You read these books for their extraordinary prose, which has a flavour somewhere in the region between Dickens and Dali. While the plot is huge, intricate and subtle, plot remains secondary. The reader must allow the dense, intricate prose to paint its vivid pictures in the mind, as strange and idiosyncratic as the illustrations and paintings for which Peake is also famous. As a celebration of the English language he is there alongside the best of writers. Those in search of a good yarn may find such writing tedious, but for those who like to savour language this is a feast.

The books are frequently described as fantasy, but they are fantasy in a sense entirely distinct from the heroic fantasy tradition resurrected from the Norse, by Tolkien, Lewis and their like. In the world of Gormenghast what heroism there is, is bent and twisted and always ultimately futile. There is little space for moral manoeuvre where the roles of most characters are prescribed to a minute degree by an immutable ancient tradition. The world of Gormenghast is a vast crumbling castle, that has stood for time immemorial, isolated from the world outside. It could be anywhere or anytime. It is populated by a cast of characters made exquisitely eccentric by the castle and the entrenched, stifling tradition it represents. The wonderful characters whom we come to love and loathe include;

Dr Prunesquallor, obliged by his position to behave as a buffoon, but the one source of sanity throughout the insane unfolding of events. He is endlessly patient with his hugely neurotic sister, Irma.
Countess Gertrude, formidable mistress of a thousand snow white cats, who has more regard for her birds than for people.
Earl Sepulchrave, 76th Earl of Groan and father of Titus. He will go very mad.
Lady Fuschia. The sweet, innocent, vain, dear Fuschia whom we want so badly to protect from the cloying menace that surrounds her.
The mad aunts, Cora and Clarice, who take tea each afternoon in the boughs of a tree that grows horizontally from the side of the castle walls.
The fanatically loyal manservant to the Earl, Mr Flay, whose knees crack like pistols, and the despicable chef, Abiatha Swelter.
And then there is the wicked, wicked boy, Steerpike, who pulls the wings off flies and seeks to control them all.

These and numerous other more or less strange characters comprise the world of Gormenghast, into which is born Titus, destined to be the 77th Earl.

Whilst a whole industry has grown up around the emulation of Tolkien, the same cannot be said for Peake's Gormenghast, the other key 'fantasy' work of the mid-20th Century. This is because Peake was touched with a unique and original vision in the way that Kafka and Sartre were. Such writers were able to see through the contingencies of our world into other worlds so close to our own in form, yet utterly different in light and atmosphere, allowing them to create a backdrop for a strange and subtly distorted form of human experience. As events unfold we watch as the characters are deformed, each in there own bizarre way.

Having read a lot of fine literature I would say that these are among the world's great books and would be worthy of a posthumous Nobel. Everybody I know who has read them has had their imagination uniquely affected by the experience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eery gothic fantasy which co-exists with reality, 3 Aug 1999
By A Customer
i first read this book 13 years ago and it still exercises a hold over me. the beauty of the prose is similar in many respects to Dickens but Peake has taken the victorian style and mutated it into something fragile. the book is set in a crumbling castle whose inhabitants lives are shored up by an empty series of fantastic rituals, echoing a long lost splendour from which they derived their meaning. the force of change arrives in the shape of the diabolic kitchen boy, Steerpike and the young inheritor of the castle is sucked in by him, as are all the other odd characters that populate the castle. it's like 'name of the rose' meets 'bleak house'. a compelling and beautifully poetic read that will lead you to the other two books (not as good as Peake was to soon die of sleeping sickness - the third book is reconstructed from his notes). after all this time, i still am in love with book and remain convinced that Peake is an unique and under-studied genius
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable experience, 25 Nov 2011
By 
Stephen Hudson "Steve Hudson" (Keynsham) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a simply beautiful, wonderful book. It affected me deeply when I read it.

It's also a unique book, in my experience, in that this is a fantastical, farcical and impossible world (Gormenghast Castle is seemingly as big as a small city; the existance of a 77th Lord Groan would be a near impossibility in our unstable world), yet there is (almost) nothing supernatural here. Our own physical laws apply. This is actually part of our world. At one point a character opens a bottle of French wine. This is not a different reality.

The writing is rich and overblown, like a massive fruitcake. Somehow this works superbly well; normally I would dislike such books, but here the complexity of the writing builds up a claustrophobic, frightening atmosphere of horror and absurdity. One slip, and it would collapse into twee Tolkeinesque or bloat into swords-and-sorcery; Peake never slips.

One thing I loved about this book is that most of the characters seem hard to like at first, but as they become more distinct, you start to see the subtle, loving relationships between some of them - mostly around Fuschia, daughter of Lord Groan.

The names of the characters are wonderful - the cook Swelter, the bone-thin dried-up old servant, Flay, Nanny Slagg, Doctor Prunesquallor (my personal favourite). Scenes from the book, with their mad vividity, linger in your mind. The Hall of Bright Carvings, which opens the book, with wooden carvings each representing the creative pinnacle of a peasant's life, forgotten under layers of dust in the Groan's castle. The fight to the death between Swelter and Flay; the meeting between Steerpike and Fuschia; the absurdity of Lord Groan being obliged by tradition to eat his dinner while a dwarf capers on the table in front of him.

It's a book of extremes; madness, love, beauty, vileness and hate. Not everyone I think will like this, but if this is the kind of thing you like, you will absolutely, completely, adore this book.

And it's only the first one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still stunning..., 18 Aug 2011
By 
Rod Bryans "Creative Maven" (Jersey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I first read this book back at college in the 70's. To re-read it was a joy. I remembered the visceral pleasure of reading something disconnected from the world I inhabited with a scope of language I'd never encountered before.

Later moving to Jersey I visited Sark, where Mervyn Peake had written a good part of the book, and was picked up at the harbour by a horse drawn carriage there being no cars on Sark. This lean, long, angular figure turned to speak to us and I was immediately confronted by a character straight of Gormenghast. The shock of that sensation still lingers with me.

This is a beautiful dark book whose characters are so distinctly drawn and the writing still glistens on the page.

Read the book. Visit Sark.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy without magic - the history of the Titus books, 29 Jun 2010
By 
The history of the Titus Books

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 ZoŽ 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear, 18 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
Oh dear. What a shame. I read this book years ago and it is fantastic. I suspect the kindle version has been scanned using some sort of OCR software which has made too many annoying mistakes. Why don't the publishers proof read? Get the paperback...Great book, shame about the lazy publishing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So Far, 10 Jun 2013
By 
Rosie Bird "Rosie" (Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
So far it's fine. I'm about quarter of the way through.
Wouldn't say I can't put it down, but i do go about 5 chapters at a time. Very discriptive.
There are more spelling mistakes in this book than I've ever found before. It looks likes it's been autocorrected rather than proof read. But if you don't have OCD that'll drive you round the bend (touch an go with me depending on the mistake) it's a different story to wrap your head round. I'll probably be following the trilogy through.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very much a neglected classic, 5 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
A great novel that illustrates the intricacies of life without opinion or bias. Very humorous and always poetic. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Titus Groan (Gormenghast), 5 Jan 2013
I gave Titus Groan 4/5 stars because, having begun reading with low expectations (this was all for a school project) I was pleasantly surprised to find quite the opposite. For fans of fantasy and gothicism this is a must-read, definitely a modern classic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Different but in a Good way, 12 Nov 2012
By 
Ste to the J (Mansfield England) - See all my reviews
synopsis isn't an easy task for such a book as this, as not a lot seems to happen plotwise, but there is a huge interaction between characters and things are always in the offing in that respect.

The miniverse in which the reader finds themself is a landscape dominated by Gormenghast castle. This, for me, has to be one of the most memorable settings in any book, the way it is written about gives the imagination scope to explore but never discover all of its secrets.

Throughout the book the reader is treated to wonderfully memorable descriptions of the Gothic architecture, its labyrinthine structure changes with each sentence to give an ever evolving and sometimes vaguely unquantifiable nature to its ancient and crumbling structure of cold indifferent stone, brooding over its dominions.

It's this difficulty to understand and clearly see the castle that brings about the mystery and the fascination, a bit like an M. C Escher painting with its strange perspectives. Gormenghast castle you will appreciate is something that (for example) Hogwarts would give its foundation stones to be, dwarfing everything with its immense presence, steeped in glory and ruin, a world where everything is possible and an infinite amount of stories can be formed.

Enough waxing lyrical about the premises though, the actual plot and writing deserve a mention too. Imagine Charles Dickens, P. G Wodehouse and Lewis Carroll having a fight in an alley (with pens) that somehow produces a book. That is the best way I have so far found to describe it and I think it works, but then again I would being slightly biased.

Despite the huge panorama outside, the reader is constantly dragged into the small places and sometimes claustrophobic spaces where the action happens, which gives a sense of equilibrium when put into perspective all the huge turrets and gables of the towering construction they inhabit. There is always lots of darkness and shadow and the crushing weight of the centuries is almost palpable at times especially when listening to the trivialities of the characters lives.

Now here is a strange lot, with enchanting names that Dickens would have been proud of (such as Dr Alfred Prunesquallor), it is refreshing to meet a bunch of characters that don't much like each other and are quite happy to live their own eccentric existences scheming and plotting away from inside the indifferent encasing stone. It almost felt like a soap opera at times, albeit a particularly verbose one. Throughout though I never found myself warming to and by extension not caring about any of the characters enough to be emotionally invested in their fates.

The story itself is written in a very languid way, indeed it was about one hundred pages before any sort of plot starts to take place, not that there isn't plenty to see with your mind's eye. Those one hundred pages do a good job of bringing you into the complex social structure of the world and also make it feel alive and vibrant but also desolate and sad at the same time.

I find myself reminiscing about Moby Dick when I think of it, another slow book that frustrated me into demanding something happen and that the pace pick up a bit. Like Moby Dick Titus Groan has fantastic language, there is some really varied prose in there and a smattering of words that I expect won't be familiar to many people these days.

When it comes down to it though, I didn't find enough to keep me hooked for one, let alone two more books. Although there were some genuine moments of humour, lots of repeated themed imagery and that sense of archaic wonder that the book conjures, it left me relatively unmoved. If you like a challenge though and feel like you want to experience some wonderfully arranged words you will more than likely get something more out of it than I did. Like I said at the beginning this is a divisive book but one I assure all you readers that enjoyed it, I did `get'. It just wasn't something that I could maintain a level of concentration for when there are so many other authors out there that deserve a read.

[...]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy)
£3.49
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews