Nicholas Whyte's Reviews > Gormenghast

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
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Mar 19, 11


The second book of the famous trilogy, in which the evil Steerpike's plans to dominate Gormenghast Castle are resolved in vicious single combat with Titus Groan, the 77th earl. When I first read this, at least a quarter of a century ago, the two scenes that really stuck in mymind were the grotesque deaths of Deadyawn the headmaster, killed in a bizarre incident where his wheelchair intersects with a dealy schoolboy game, and of the twin aunts of Titus and Fuchsia, locked away by Steerpike to dies in isolation. I was surprised on rereading by quite how early in the book both events come. For the rest of it, Peake's obsession with disability as a marker for moral iniquity is rather dubious (the 'Thing', an unspeaking girl who represents freedom, is the acme of physical and spiritual perfection, while Barquentine, Deadyawn and indeed Steerpike are mutilated and evil). But it is a gloriously baroque description of life in a very peculiar place, and it gets pretty intense in the final chapters, when the castle is flooded and the Countess and Titus stalk Steerpike through the rising waters.
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