Paul's Reviews > Gormenghast

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
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May 17, 13

bookshelves: novels

(Vaguely spoilerish remarks follow).

Stripped to the bone, Titus Groan and Gormenghast tell a simple story of pre-socialist revolution and why it will inevitably fail. Steerpike, the ostensible villain, the agent of historical transition, is the working class boy from the kitchens who fails to achieve full political consciousness, seeks no solidarity from his co-workers, and decides to infiltrate the system from within, working alone. The toadying middle-classes (Prunesquallor and his sister, all the teachers) fall to his machinations like ripe fruit. The corrupt upper classes (viciously portrayed as insane or solipsistic and quite indifferent to the suffering of their minions)are equally prostrate before his Machiavellian advances. It appears he will succeed but in order to do so, he must bring the whole grisly Gormenghastian edifice crashing down. We know he must die in the attempt because even to succeed would be a tragedy - he would have no idea what to do with Gormenghast even if he wrested power from the Groans. No Robespierre is he. Would he terminate the intolerable meaningless eternal rituals everyone in the castle is swathed in? Probably not. He would replace the Countess' cats with lizards, or some such boyish whimsy, and fret vacantly, unsure what else to do. His revolution has no point, it has no ideal. Steerpike must die.

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Kate (new)

Kate Gormenghast is a dark, dark, dark place-- Dickens with all the lights off? but Peake realizes it brilliantly. I was wowed by the richness of his language and the strange believability-- of his characters. I loved reading all three books-- and I was happy to come out into the sunshine again when I finished!

I think there was a television adaptation, but it didn't. Even. Come close.


Paul we watched it recently, with some trepidation on my part, and it wasn't a travesty. But Gormenghast is made of language, not dialogue.


message 3: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Heidin-Seek I didn't know about that background. Another re-read to do.


Cecily Paul, I completely agree with your comment about the TV series, and Kim, I like the idea of Dickens with the lights off.


message 5: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Heidin-Seek Cecily wrote: "Paul, I completely agree with your comment about the TV series, and Kim, I like the idea of Dickens with the lights off."

Where the Dickens are you, my love?


message 6: by mark (new)

mark monday i like it when you like the books that i like.


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