An extraordinary collection of poems, plays, short stories and drawings, displaying something of Peake's extraordinary range, and also exposing recurring themes, especially islands, isolation and the longing for security. There is even a story he wrote when he was 11, though it has the very un-PC title, "The White Chief of the Umzibooboo Kaffirs"!
I had already read "Boy in Darkness and Other Stories", a Titus novella (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
) and seen some of the pictures, but most of the other material was new to me, including other short works that have prototypical Gormenghast aspects. In one of these, "The House of Darkstones", Lord Groan has the violet eyes that end up being so typical of Titus. He was also "taller than there was any need to be" and meets Mr Stewflower on, of course, and island.
One often hears how being a war artist at the liberation of Belsen affected Peake, but some of his wartime poetry set in the London blitz is very powerful too. There is also a horrifically vivid poem, "The Consumptive of Belsen", where you can really tell the writer was also an artist. Although I often quote sections of novels, quoting a bit of a poem rarely works, so read them for yourself! But as a taster, picture "a huddled boy whose eyes had died... his eyes like broken glass - the shattered panes of a deserted house".
This book also reminds one of the lasting influence of his Chinese childhood - even down to the way he held a pencil like a Chinese calligraphy brush, and has Peake's own introduction to a collection of his pictures.
Then, in total contrast to the war poems, there are nonsense poems (slightly reminiscent of Lear, Carroll and Belloc, complete with nonsense illustrations), and, as if to emphasise the fact he was an artist as well as a writer, some poems about great artists.
I am still dipping in and out of it, non-sequentially: it is too rich to consume in one go. I have read most of it except for the plays.
All my Peake/Gormenghast reviews now have their own shelf:http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/...