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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 22 April 2016
First saw this production on television in, I think, the early 00s. Wanted to see it again and also read the book. Have only just started it but already thoroughly enjoying the story. Looking forward to sending off for Part 2 in due course.
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on 28 February 2013
Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy is a work of literary genius, containing such exquisitely detailed and stunningly beautiful narrative. Unlike anything within current contemporary fiction, Mervyn Peake revels in our beautiful language and brings such atmospheric nuance to the page. Experimenting with language and description (in the vein of classic literature within the 18th century and before), this ultimately paints a clear picture of the setting, characters and remarkable world that one delights in. Darkly humorous and creepy, one encounters the world of Titus Groan for the first time - heir to an ancient, rambling castle in a magical land. The Gormenghast royal family, the castle's decidedly eccentric staff, and the peasant artisans living around the dreary, crumbling structure make up the cast of characters in this engrossing story. Peake's command of language and unique style set the tone and shape of an intricate, slow-moving world of ritual and stasis...

Superlative Titus Groan is unusual and quite a bewitching piece of literature, which doesn't seem to conform to any specific genre in particular and yet, would be regarded as more than mere fictitious frivolity. Peculiar, weird and highly memorable characters add to the colorful writing which can be admired as simply a great piece of prose. The storyline is so outlandish, so otherworldly that you know you have encountered something quite special as soon as you begin to read the first page. Portrayed as exaggerated caricatures, bizarre and comical this ensemble of interesting characters is one of the most loveable and striking within literature. Professing the author's uniquely identifiable style that oozes originality and delicate fluidity this is a book that will mesmerize and astonish.

"This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow."
¯ Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan

Book 1 in the Gormenghast trilogy has to be one of the most recognizable original works of sheer magnitude, containing such substance as to stand-out on the bookshelf. Linguists, bibliophiles, English literature students along with readers who are seeking something noteworthy will adore `Titus Groan' and so I do highly recommend this.

"Years on end, and swords on end - where will it end, if our ears unbend - what shall I spend on a wrinkled friend in a pair of tights like a bunch of lights?"
¯ Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
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on 16 May 2015
Top class radio dramatisations of Gormenghast and Titus.Freddie Jones,Sting and Richard Griffiths all give stellar performances of this classic piece of fiiction.A much more rewarding version than the tv adaptation and very very atmospheric.Why the BBC have not rereleased this on cd is beyond me.I had to transfer an old cassette to disc so i could hear this on the go in the car.
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on 29 June 2010
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 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.
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on 26 February 2002
I have just finished Titus and am now (sadly) coming to the end of Gormenghast. In both books it is not so much the story that is the main focus (although it is brillient) but the actual storytelling itself. Peake has an incredible gift with words, and you find youself mouthing passages out loud because they are so lyrical - in many ways this is more like a poetry than a novel. When I bought this my only concern was that it might be a bit too Tolkien-ish; ie.good bits are few and far between - this absolutely ISN'T. Every word is brillient and paints a perfect picture of life in the other worldly Gormenghast.The characters are described and developed by every action as well as their appearence and behavior so they too come vividly to life - more so than any other books I can think of. In parts they are quite Terry Pratchet-ish (like the doctor) whereas Clarice and Cora remind me of Lewis Carroll.
I am 15 and though I tend to be a bit of a bookworm I would recommend this to anyone my age (especially those who liked the Harry Potters but are now outgrowing them)as you do not need to be a fan of Lord of the Rings-like drivel to love this. I had never really thought such thing as a book that 'stays with you for the rest of your life' actually existed but Gormenghast has proved me wrong. It is one of those wonderfully escapist books where you can completely lose yourself in a different world. Highly recommended.
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on 19 May 2015
Peake is a Marmite writer - totally fascinating, disturbing, enthralling - if you have the time to read the book. If not, the audio version is a painless way into Gormenghast if you're travelling into work on the train.
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on 3 August 2011
It feels wrong to criticise a story invested with as much love and feeling as the author displays here. The breadth of language and depth of descriptions evoke a non-existent time and place so beautifully that you are emotionally affected by the language deployed and, for me, that is its strength and its major weakness. The world is so unremittingly dark that you feel a sense of gloom pervading yourself as you read. Even the fairly frequent moments of humour fail to lift you into the light, serving only as a counterpoint to the all-encompassing grimness that the characters and ourselves inhabit.

Of course, it is a testament to the skill and vision of the author that he was able to create a world that is so consistently well-depicted that it begins to exist on an emotional level as you continue to read. The fact that his characters belong and react accordingly to their environment is also only another factor in this book's favour. However, it is this realism and authenticity that drained a great deal of the pleasure out of reading this tale. None of the character seem able to rise above their world. They are infused with the same bleakness and cynicism as the world in which they belong. This world, no matter how beautifully evoked, is not a place that I emotionally recognised or could become involved in. Although I was interested enough in the characters' journeys to read until the end, and enjoyed the writer's skill in evoking time and place, I was never involved enough to care what really happened, and that is why I cannot give more than three stars.

In addition, I also felt that the use of language is so self-conscious and deliberate that this also detracts from the story being told; that it is more an exercise in the power of language to affect than to entertain. As such an exercise it would score highly, but as an exercise in entertainment, that is where, in my opinion, it falls down.
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on 11 February 2003
Reviews of this book (and it's continuation, Gormenghast: the two are a single story and should be read as such) constantly focus on the deep, wonderfully languid prose and strange poetry they are written in. but remember, description and place alone cannot carry a book. Where these books truly triumph is the characters. Though all are to a greater or lesser extent caricatures (some of whom, like the twins, are truly grotesque), they are slowly and subtly built into real people, with real emotions, life outside the page, and a give sense of belonging to the luminous, dusty world.
These books are not an easy read, but persevere, it's worth it.
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on 5 January 2015
This is an amazing book- a fantasy which should be rivalling Lord of the Rings in its fame but which has, sadly, been a little forgotten... However, this is a phenomenal book, the characters are quirky and the storyline is riveting and exciting. It is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite books!
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on 7 March 2003
It's a very, very, very original book - but then what can you expect of novel so widely applauded? Titus Groan is an engaging encyclopaedic account of a world so thoroughly realised that it is hard at times to imagine it is fiction. Mervyn Peake's world of Gormenghast rages against magical fantasy, this is realistic fantasy - a world so close to our own, but with infinite minor differences.
The opening of Titus Groan is sweeping and fantastic, the baton moves from character to character as we travel through the vast castle. But through the rapid exchanges and introductions of characters one never feels lost.
The book charts the rotting of a rigid hieratical society - one that descends into apathy (as Lord Sepulchrave), madness (the Twins Clarice and Cora), solipsism (Countess Gertrude) and greed (Steerpike). Each character in this book is alone and their primary relationship is the one to the castle Gormenghast - rather than a relationship to each other.
The narrative does get dense and repetitive at times which dampens the atmosphere. It's a shame that Titus Groan drags in places as it may well put off the lighter reader. There are errors too in the story, Rottcodd (curator of the Hall of Bright Carvings) states that he not seen anyone in over a year - but the book states early on, "the first morning of June the carvings were ranged every year for judgement by the Earl of Groan." It seems that even for Peake the pedantic nature of Gormenghast is too much to handle.
Titus Groan is a classic and made me hunger for the other two books in the series. But be prepared to put a little effort in on your part too.
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