Cecily's Reviews > Peake's Progress: Selected Writings and Drawings of Mervyn Peake

Peake's Progress by Mervyn Peake
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jul 04, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: miscellaneous-fiction, plays, poetry, short-stories, magical-realism, gormenghast-peake
Read from July 04 to August 12, 2011

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:
4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Peake's Progress.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Suna (new) - added it

Suna How exciting...I adore Peake and hadn't heard of this collection!

message 2: by Cecily (last edited Jul 27, 2011 05:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily It is newly published. A wonderful compendium: some items I'd seen before and some are new to me. I'm savouring it, dipping in and out between other things.

You may enjoy this, which is also new: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39...

message 3: by Suna (new) - added it

Suna It looks very interesting but I may skip it: Reading Ted Hughes' biography nearly ruined the magic of his poetry for me. Knowing that he was really into horoscopes when he wrote a certain poem and what planetary alignments he found meaningful seemed pointlessly demeaning to the poem itself...:)

Cecily Good point, and I didn't know that about Ted Hughes. Most disconcerting.

Anyway, I'm not sure that "Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art" will actually tell me much that is completely new to me, but I will post a review in due course.

message 5: by Suna (new) - added it

Suna I look forward to reading it!

message 6: by Louise (last edited Jun 19, 2012 06:16AM) (new)

Louise I want this book so badly. Love Gormenghast and love his illustrations to The Hunting of the Snark and Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Was on special offer a while ago and I was so tempted but even then it was way too expensive for me.

Time to start putting together a birthday wishlist!

message 7: by Miriam (new)

Miriam If it wasn't included in this collection, you might want to look for his picture-book Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor.

message 8: by Cecily (last edited Jan 03, 2014 11:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Thanks. I haven't read "Captain Slaughterboard". This collection includes part of a story called "Mr Slaughterboard", which is unrelated, apart from the name.

message 9: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Does it have illustrations?

message 10: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle Love it, Cecily!

Miriam wrote: "Does it have illustrations?"

It has a pretty good amount. Of course they're beautiful, but there are also some more obscure ones I haven't seen before.

Cecily Oh, sorry for not seeing your comment, Miriam. And thanks to Kyle for (finally) answering!

message 12: by Cecily (last edited Jan 03, 2014 11:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Miriam wrote: "If it wasn't included in this collection, you might want to look for his picture-book Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor."

I was given it for Christmas.
It is delightful.
I've reviewed it here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

back to top