Darran Mclaughlin's Reviews > The Gormenghast Trilogy

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
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Jul 27, 2011

bookshelves: british, gothic, fantasy

A conundrum of a book. The first and second books are superb. Extremely well written in a style remeniscent of a gloomy, gothic Dickens. Wonderful characters, rich setting, a well developed fictional universe. Then the third book is so bad you don't know which way to look. In books one and two Peak creates a world and a set of characters that get under your skin. In the third he abandons all but the titular character and sends him out into the wider world. I can see why he decided to do this. The Gormenghast books are an allegory for the debate between tradition and conservatism, and dyanamism and chage on the other hand. He had to contrast the world of Gormenghast with somewhere else to make his point. But as soon as he gets out of what has become his comfort zone as a writer he fails miserably. The plot is confused and arbitrary, the new characters are paper thin with none of the tics and flourishes that breathed life into the old characters and he adopts a chage of writing style that does him no favours. I thought at one point I detected the influence of Ronald Firbank, who's writing I just don't like. In short, book three is so bad it almost ruins the achievement of the first two books.
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Alan Smith Apparently Peake was stricken with Parkinson's Disease, which is why the last book was such a dog's breakfast! It's one of the great "if only's" of literature to think what it might have been like if he'd been in full possession of his faculties when he wrote it!

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