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The Gormenghast Trilogy (Gormenghast #1-3)

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,502 Ratings  ·  488 Reviews
Gormenghast is the vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir. Gothic labyrinth of roofs and turrets, cloisters and corridors, stairwells and dungeons, it is also the cobwebbed kingdom of Byzantine government and age-old ritual, a world primed to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and mur ...more
Paperback, 953 pages
Published 1999 by Vintage Books (first published September 1973)
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J.G. Keely
I know of no author in all of the English language who is like Peake, or who could aspire to be like him. His voice is as unique as that of Milton, Bierce, Conrad, Blake, Donne, or Eliot, and as fully-realized. I am a hard and critical man, cynical and not easily moved, but there are passages in the Gormenghast series which so shocked me by the force of their beauty that I snap the book shut, overwhelmed with wonderment, and take a moment to catch my breath.

I would drop my head. My eyes would se
See 2013's Great Gormenghast Read:

A thing of beauty, like the words it contains: beautifully bound, with sumptuous illustrations. I'm often wary of illustrations in adult books, but Peake was an artist and illustrator as well as a writer, so I make an exception in this case.

Two of my three favourite books (and a third that I like) in one volume, with an excellent introduction by China Mieville (and Sebastian Peake's note about the illustrations).

The cont
Dec 07, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WARNING: The posts below are purely fictional. They never happened, and were not posted by real people. Any similarities to anyone, including myself, are purely your imagination. Even the posts posted by real people were not posted by real people.

Any similarities between this thread and reality are entirely coincidental. But, that scary picture of the blond guy crying? Oh, that's real. That's so sad, and so real.
Rotting shadows and incongruous beams of light are what I remember most from this... novel, if you can call it that. Incarnation would likely be more accurate. Characters are merely spectres generated by the stones of Gormenghast Castle. The fragile mind of the author had descended just far enough to see the music in the movements of the grotesque pieces we cannot bring ourselves to look upon. Months after reading this, I'm still not entirely sure what it is that I took away from Gormenghast. Th ...more
Mar 23, 2015 Micha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lygophiliacs. and everyone else.
As of late, whenever it is cold and inhospitable outside, preferably raining or snowing, I become a wanderer of long corridors and twisted stairwells, of crumbling roofs and jutting turrets, of cobwebbed dungeons and cavernous cloisters. I descend into the fathomless depths of the imagination with author Mervyn Peake. One of the fathers of the modern Fantasy genre, Peake is little known outside literary circles. His masterpiece, The Gormenghast Trilogy, was published around the time of Tolkien’s ...more
As it happened I read this in three separate volumes. I wouldn't recommend going for a one volume edition unless you have very big hands. But out of convenience I'll lump them all together.

Titus Groan is the first volume of Mervyn Peake's distinctive Gormenghast trilogy. The first two volumes of which come across as being strongly inspired by Peake's childhood as a missionary's son in China while the third has the taste of post World War II Europe.

The Earls of Groan rule Gormenghast. A great cra
Eddie Watkins
Oct 03, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-fiction
One of the great hermetic works of literature. A complete and total world unto itself, almost to the point of detaching from the Earth and assuming its own orbit. If it were to do this it would be a strangely barren world however, a barren world of endlessly ramifying imagination, an almost airless world, a world both vast and microscopic. These books, this world, induced a tremendous sense of mental claustrophobia in this reader, yet all these years later I still long to return to it.
Don't compare to lord of the to Kafka, Poe, Lewis Carroll,or maybe Edward Gorey..a mostly drop dead funny book(or books) that retains a sense of unbearable grimness.
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the drowning man
Recommended to Mariel by: other voices
I remember vividly the night that I began reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan (first in the Gormenghast trilogy). Seventeen years old and awake all night, almost every night, incapable of shutting the mind off for some peace and shut eye. I remember looking down at my instant favorite in my lap not being able to believe my luck to have found such a book. Escape! Mervyn Peake's trilogy are not books that will ease loneliness... What they did give to me were these sets of images that will not leave ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Terence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Titus Groan: Part 1 of 3:

Peake’s writing in this first Gormenghast novel reminds me of E.R. Eddison’s in The Worm Ouroboros, both for its fecundity and for the manifest enjoyment in the English language its author feels. Twenty years ago – even as few as 10 – I wouldn’t have appreciated this book and would have stopped reading it rather quickly but today I can’t help but thrill to opening passages like:

This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fi
Jul 29, 2007 Duchess rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Someone please give me the power to finish trudging through this book. Interesting idea & setting, but the writing is T.E.D.I.O.U.S.
I love nice descriptive writing as much as the next reader, but this is kind of ridiculous.
Nov 05, 2014 Bokeshi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Gormenghast trilogy is as close to perfection as literature can be. It is unique, sublime, whimsical, moving, weird, surprising, otherworldly, and written in shimmering, velvety, voloptouos prose, wonderful beyond belief. No amount of imagery, sumptuous, voluminous, sensuous or rapturous can even begin to describe the delights of Peake's masterpiece. A true triumph of language and imagination.
Vit Babenco
Mar 10, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The world is divided in two parts: the domain of ugliness and the realm of beauty, the morass of useless and stale traditions and the enigmatic and enticing life on the land outside. And the lonely boy Titus Groan, the heir of the monstrously huge castle of Gormenghast, must grow up and fight the lethargic, deadly inertia and crush fatal cosmic evil surrounding him.
And the language of the tale belongs to an unadulterated magic:
“It gave Mr Flay what he imagined must be pleasure. He was discoverin
Teresa Edgerton
Dec 15, 2011 Teresa Edgerton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The castle of Gormenghast is an immense rambling structure, made up of meandering corridors, countless courtyards, towers, libraries, attics, and underground passages — there are, as well, vast regions the author leaves unexplored, and it is more than likely the inhabitants have forgotten they even exist. If this were not enough, there is another tremendous landscape across the rooftops. Within this remarkable building the Groan family and its servitors enac
Aug 13, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, reviewed
Not to be compared with Lord of the Rings but appreciated as its own distinctive universe, owing more stylistic debts to Carroll, Poe, Dickens and a touch of Kafka, Mervyn Peake's world of Gormenghast is a dark and bizarre fairy tale without the fairies, or more aptly, a tale of grotesques. Once I gathered the rhythm of the prose, I couldn't escape the sprawling labyrinth that is the castle centerpiece of the first two novels, Titus Groan and Gormenghast, nor did I want to, which is why I, as so ...more
Jun 09, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forgive the cliche, but there just are not enough stars for this trilogy. This is a masterswork about a fantastic world in a village in a castle. This is fantasy that owes absolutely nothing to Tolkien (not that Im putting him down, LOTR is fabulous) If one thinks of Middle Earth as a Macrocosm, then Goremenghast is a Microcosm. Think of Dickens, Intoxicated with the English Language, writing a Gothic Fantasy, and you get some of the feeling. I have read this book 3 times, and I am sure I will r ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mervyn Peake’s The Gormenghast Trilogy (Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone), published between 1946-1959, was originally conceived as a four or five book series, but the author died after the publication of only the first two books, the third having been reconstructed after his death from his notebooks. In this work, Peake created a locale and story almost hallucinogenic in atmosphere, internally consistent but sufficiently phantasmagoric as to seem dreamlike, fantastic, twisted and bizar ...more
Ben Babcock
One of the more pernicious aspects of epic fantasy is medieval stasis. Even as we celebrate the freedoms made possible through democracy, we revel in escapism to an inherently oppressive setting, where hereditary titles are standard-issue and the plot often involves helping a rightful heir regain the throne. This is but one of the many tensions that arises in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (or Titus) books. The eponymous castle is a grand affair in its own right, but it is the locus of a much grande ...more
Apr 18, 2007 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nerds
I'd call it Shakespeare for the Lord of the Rings set. Did I just write that? Peake's imagination is otherwordly. His descriptive talent is singular. His language does remind me of Shakespeare or a particularly eloquent philosophical writer or something. The first two books are the best, concerning a dying feudal society and the leadership thereof. The monarchs have been forced, through layers and layers of tradition that no-one remembers the reasons for, to exercise complicated daily rituals. A ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Terran rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-fun
Got, oh, maybe 150 pages into this and couldn't get excited about it, so I gave up.

I have repeatedly been told of the mastery of this book. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood. In general, I do go for dark and intricate and elaborate. But I just couldn't make myself care about this world or its people. I couldn't get into the right "suspension of disbelief" mindset -- kept having intrusive thoughts like, "Wait, where do the inhabitants of this castle get food from?" or, "Wait, I've seen trul
Oct 23, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, fantasy, literary
'Titus Groan':

'The moon slid inexorably into its zenith, the shadows shrivelling to the feet of all that cast them, and as Rantel approached the hollow at the hem of the Twisted Woods he was treading in a pool of his own midnight.'

I shall read the other two stories in this volume in due course, but for now, shall leave the shadows of Gormenghast, the deathly halls with their noises dark as shrinking pupils, and those people, heavy, flinching and lost between those marvelous walls...

There is muc
Nov 02, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I own nearly every iteration of these novels, including the most recent reissue, which I adore, but I picked up this edition again this morning and just fell into it, from the introductory essays by Quentin Crisp and Anthony Burgess to the opening scenes . . .

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I've read these stories. They live inside me not just because of their intense baroque imagery, but also because of their nearly flawless diction. The words are precise and stunning. The w
Jan 30, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The castle, itself, is an entity. The plot spirals deeper and deeper into its psyche. The characters are both complex and symbolic.

.. & Lady Fuchsia is my patron saint:
"Less formidable, yet sullen as her mother and as incalculable, is Titus' sister, Fuchsia. Sensitive as was her father without his intellect, Fuchsia tosses her black flag of hair, bites at her childish underlip, scowls, laughs, broods, is tender, is intemperate, suspicious and credulous all in a day. Her crimson dress inflame
First off, this review is for the Gormenghast TRILOGY. (one book)
I would give this epic 5 stars if it wasnt for the last book in the trilogy, "Titus Alone". It just doesnt fit in with the rest of the story and I actually skimmed through it because it felt disjointed to me.

However, the first two books in the trilogy "Titus Groan" and "Gormenghast" are well worth a read. Weird, yes. But if you like engrossing escape fiction set in an imaginary place and unknown time with no mythological creatures
Ok I admit, I got a little over whelmed 752 pages in, and still have to read the last novel in the Trilogy 'Titus Alone'. I have never read anything like 'Titus Groan' and 'Gormenghast'; it is hard to describe so I wont, just to say I have never read such an organic novel. Most novels you can see the scaffolding, how everything is put together. Mervyn Peak's characters are all in full colour and complete individuals, Peak just gives them a place to play.I only noticed once in 752 pages character ...more
Apr 22, 2016 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
And, so, finally, for me at least, the world of Gormenghast. The great gothic fantasy of Dickensian characters, vast engines of ritual and excitable melodrama and amazing names. The first thing is the writing. Words upon words upon words like brick upon brick. Sentences wringing imagery out of language, constructing the inconceivable, brooding edifice, the endless twisting warrens and halls and rooms, the towers and battlements and crenelations. Painting huges canvases of coloured landscapes and ...more
Dec 10, 2013 midnightfaerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"I am tired of your words," said Titus.
"I use them as a kind of lattice-work," said Muzzlehatch. "They hide me away from me...let alone from you. Words can be tiresome as a swarm of insects. They can prick and buzz! Words can be no more than a series of farts; or on the other hand they can be adamantine, obdurate, inviolable, stone upon stone. Rather like your 'so-called Gormenghast' (you notice that I use the same phrase again. The phrase that makes you cross?) For although you have learned, it
Ori Fienberg
I found this book used for $5. It's a beautiful edition, weighty, with creamy pages. It will undoubtedly cut an imposing figure on your bookcase. The Washington Post Book World review suggests that "many readers" consider it "the true fantasy classic of our time." I wonder who those many readers are. As a caveat, I've yet to read Gormenghast and Titus Alone, so maybe it's best taken as an entire oeuvre, but after reading Titus Groan, I don't feel I have the stamina to make it through the next to ...more
Oct 19, 2007 Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, classic
I've only read the first novel, Titus Groan, and I certainly understand why these books have such rabid fans, but I doubt I'll ever be one of them.

The writing is admirable. Rarely has a world been so vivid in my mind, and in such a distinctive style. Reading this, I saw the story unfold like an animated movie created with jagged quill pen drawings. This vivid style also applies to the characters, who are as distinctive as Dick Tracy villains. Mervyn Peake is a genius when it comes to naming his
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I watched the BBC mini-series and have it tentatively marked as something to consider reading some day cuz somewhence it's been indicated that it's readable. But no urgency, apparently.

It's here: and Netflix stocks it.

Watching the series clarifies why Vollmann recommends "the first two books" of the trilogy. The two (approx. the first three episodes of four) are charmingly Alice in Wonderland-ish absurdishness and quirkishness and the final episode is mos
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Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English modernist writer, artist, poet and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, though the Titus books would be more accurate: the three works that exist were the beginning of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, following his protagonist Titus Groan from cradle to grave, but Peake's untimely death prevented compl ...more
More about Mervyn Peake...

Other Books in the Series

Gormenghast (5 books)
  • Titus Groan (Gormenghast, #1)
  • Gormenghast (Gormenghast, #2)
  • Boy in Darkness
  • Titus Alone (Gormenghast, #3)
  • Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast (Gormenghast, #4)

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“If ever he had harboured a conscience in his tough narrow breast he had by now dug out and flung away the awkward thing - flung it so far away that were he ever to need it again he could never find it. High-shouldered to a degree little short of malformation, slender and adroit of limb and frame, his eyes close-set and the colour of dried blood, he is climbing the spiral staircase of the soul of Gormenghast, bound for some pinnacle of the itching fancy - some wild, invulnerable eyrie best known to himself; where he can watch the world spread out below him, and shake exultantly his clotted wings” 21 likes
“Cold love’s the loveliest love of all. So clear, so crisp, so empty. In short, so civilized.” 12 likes
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