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The Gormenghast Trilogy Paperback – 1 Apr 1999
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"A master of the macabre and a traveller through the deeper and darker chasms of the imagination" (The Times)
"Mervyn Peake is a finer poet than Edgar Allan Poe, and he is therefore able to maintain his world of fantasy brilliantly through three novels. It [The Gormenghast Trilogy] is a very, very great work...a classic of our age" (Robertson Davies)
"[Peake's books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience" (C. S. Lewis)
"The Gormenghast Trilogy is one of the most important works to come out of the age that produced The Four Quartets, The Unquiet Grave, Brideshead Revisited, The Loved One, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four" (Anthony Burgess Spectator)
Gormenghast is the vast, crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is lord and heir. Titus is expected to rule this gothic labyrinth of turrets and dungeons, and his eccentric and wayward subjects, according to strict age-old rituals, but things are changing in the castle. Titus must contend with treachery, manipulation and murder as well as his own longing for a life beyond the castle walls.See all Product description
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Sometimes this can be a mistake - books you thought wonderful in your early teens don't necessarily seem so in your 60's - but not here.
Still magical, beautifully written and illustrated and I've now read other books that cast new light on them - Dickens, King, Clarke. etc..
I envy you, if this is your first encounter with Peake.
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.
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!
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.
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.