Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable experience, 25 Nov 2011
This review is from: Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy) (Paperback)
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.
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