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The Gormenghast Novels

(Gormenghast #1-3)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  8,354 ratings  ·  621 reviews
A doomed lord, an emergent hero, and a dazzling array of bizarre creatures inhabit the magical world of the Gormenghast novels which, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reign as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of it all is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gor ...more
Paperback, 1173 pages
Published December 1995 by Overlook Press (first published 1959)
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Jessica Rushing Does anyone of true intellect really believe that spending their time putting down and complaining about others, like Geoffrey Jones, really advances …moreDoes anyone of true intellect really believe that spending their time putting down and complaining about others, like Geoffrey Jones, really advances one's values? Or one's life? No. It is a silly waste of time. But here it is. It is of no use to us. At all. (less)
Joy I'm reading the Overlook edition right now (with the introduction by Morecock). It does include many of Mervin Peake's illustrations. In addition to M…moreI'm reading the Overlook edition right now (with the introduction by Morecock). It does include many of Mervin Peake's illustrations. In addition to Morecock's introduction, there is a note on the illustrations, written by Peake's son Sebastian, where he discusses his father's sketches that are included in the book.

There is an edition published by another company. Maybe that one uses illustrations from someone else.(less)

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J.G. Keely
I know of no author in all of the English language who is like Peake, or who could aspire to be like him. His voice is as unique as that of Milton, Bierce, Conrad, Blake, Donne, or Eliot, and as fully-realized. I am a hard and critical man, cynical and not easily moved, but there are passages in the Gormenghast series which so shocked me by the force of their beauty that I snap the book shut, overwhelmed with wonderment, and take a moment to catch my breath.

I would drop my head. My eyes would se
A thing of beauty, like the words it contains: carefully bound, with sumptuous illustrations. I'm often wary of pictures in adult books, but Peake was a painter and illustrator as well as a writer, so I make an exception in this case. He sketched in the margins of most of his writings, as he wrote. Artistic symbiosis.

Two of my three favourite books, plus a third I’ve learned to like, in one volume, with an excellent introduction by China Mieville, and Sebastian Peake's note about the illustrat
Amalia Gavea
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
''{...}what haunts the heart will, when it is found, leap foremost, blinding the eye and leaving the main of Life in darkness.” “{…}

A beautiful example of the Fantasy genre done right. Mervyn Peake built a realistic world, full of evil, gentle, quirky, fascinating, unforgettable characters. The brightest of them all is Steerpike (the protagonist in Titus Groan and Gormenghast. A deliciously evil mastermind we love to hate. (view spoiler)
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The world is divided in two parts: the domain of ugliness and the realm of beauty, the morass of useless and stale traditions and the enigmatic and enticing life on the land outside. And the lonely boy Titus Groan, the heir of the monstrously huge castle of Gormenghast, must grow up and fight the lethargic, deadly inertia and crush fatal cosmic evil surrounding him.
And the language of the saga is a creation of an unadulterated wizardry:
It gave Mr Flay what he imagined must be pleasure. He was di
Paul Bryant
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Last read by me : about a hundred years ago. Would this favourite from my youthy youth stand up to mature scrutiny? Short answer : YES! Gormenghast is still wonderful, grotesque, and more than a little outrageous. I remembered its many logorrheic delights and here they were, intact : spilth, rabous, fumid, lapsury, abactimal, and many other fulminant obscurities were all present and correct and spooled out in sentence upon long, involved sentence. But it’s not just the words, it’s the order he p ...more
As it happened I read this in three separate volumes. I wouldn't recommend going for a one volume edition unless you have very big hands. But out of convenience I'll lump them all together in a single review.

Titus Groan is the first volume of Mervyn Peake's distinctive Gormenghast trilogy. The first two volumes of which come across as being strongly inspired by Peake's childhood as a missionary's son in China while the third has the taste of post World War II Europe.

The Earls of Groan rule Gorm
Manuel Antão
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2000
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Painting in Text: "The Gormenghast Trilogy" by Marvin Peake

I consider it pointless to compare Tolkien and Peake; you might as well argue whether Raymond Chandler is better than Ivy Compton-Burnett. I would only point out, since I believe no one has so far, that in Gormenghast, unlike Middle Earth, Sex exists. I also think Peake fits into the Gothic tradition in literature – it is surprising that a book containing no magic or mythologic
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
WARNING: The posts below are purely fictional. They never happened, and were not posted by real people. Any similarities to anyone, including myself, are purely your imagination. Even the posts posted by real people were not posted by real people.

Any similarities between this thread and reality are entirely coincidental. But, that scary picture of the blond guy crying? Oh, that's real. That's so sad, and so real.
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The kingdom of Gormenghast, a kind of gothic medieval fantasy land, is like a giant institution in which everyone, including the ruling class suffers from a sense of oppression. One senses Peake has often deployed his memories of public school for inspiration. Every character is firmly glued to his or her duties. There's little freedom of movement. Only two characters actively rebel. The malevolent and Machiavellian Steerpike and the young earl, Titus.

The first thing that got my attention was t
Rotting shadows and incongruous beams of light are what I remember most from this... novel, if you can call it that. Incarnation would likely be more accurate. Characters are merely spectres generated by the stones of Gormenghast Castle. The fragile mind of the author had descended just far enough to see the music in the movements of the grotesque pieces we cannot bring ourselves to look upon. Months after reading this, I'm still not entirely sure what it is that I took away from Gormenghast. Th ...more
T.D. Whittle
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Lady Gertrude Groane, by Braen on DeviantArt

Come, oh, come, my own! my Only!
Through the Gormenghast of Groan.
Lingering has become so lonely
As I linger all alone! (p.99)
Ah, Gormenghast! I have only got through Titus Groan, so far, which is the first book of the trilogy. Here is the blurb for that part of the trilogy, for anyone not familiar with it: 'Titus Groan starts with the birth and ends with the first birthday celebrations of the heir to the grand, tradition-bound castle of Gormenghast. A
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lygophiliacs. and everyone else.
As of late, whenever it is cold and inhospitable outside, preferably raining or snowing, I become a wanderer of long corridors and twisted stairwells, of crumbling roofs and jutting turrets, of cobwebbed dungeons and cavernous cloisters. I descend into the fathomless depths of the imagination with author Mervyn Peake. One of the fathers of the modern Fantasy genre, Peake is little known outside literary circles. His masterpiece, The Gormenghast Trilogy, was published around the time of Tolkien’s ...more
Don't compare to lord of the to Kafka, Poe, Lewis Carroll,or maybe Edward Gorey..a mostly drop dead funny book(or books) that retains a sense of unbearable grimness.
Eddie Watkins
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uk-fiction
One of the great hermetic works of literature. A complete and total world unto itself, almost to the point of detaching from the Earth and assuming its own orbit. If it were to do this it would be a strangely barren world however, a barren world of endlessly ramifying imagination, an almost airless world, a world both vast and microscopic. These books, this world, induced a tremendous sense of mental claustrophobia in this reader, yet all these years later I still long to return to it.
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the drowning man
Recommended to Mariel by: other voices
I remember vividly the night that I began reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan (first in the Gormenghast trilogy). Seventeen years old and awake all night, almost every night, incapable of shutting the mind off for some peace and shut eye. I remember looking down at my instant favorite in my lap not being able to believe my luck to have found such a book. Escape! Mervyn Peake's trilogy are not books that will ease loneliness... What they did give to me were these sets of images that will not leave ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Gormenghast trilogy is as close to perfection as literature can be. It is unique, sublime, whimsical, moving, weird, surprising, otherworldly, and written in shimmering, velvety, voloptouos prose, wonderful beyond belief. No amount of imagery, sumptuous, voluminous, sensuous or rapturous can even begin to describe the delights of Peake's masterpiece. A true triumph of language and imagination.
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy

I want to be buried with this book.

More, later.
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Someone please give me the power to finish trudging through this book. Interesting idea & setting, but the writing is T.E.D.I.O.U.S.
I love nice descriptive writing as much as the next reader, but this is kind of ridiculous.
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Titus Groan: Part 1 of 3:

Peake’s writing in this first Gormenghast novel reminds me of E.R. Eddison’s in The Worm Ouroboros, both for its fecundity and for the manifest enjoyment in the English language its author feels. Twenty years ago – even as few as 10 – I wouldn’t have appreciated this book and would have stopped reading it rather quickly but today I can’t help but thrill to opening passages like:

This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the
Jacob Overmark
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is much to say, and Peake used an awful lot of words himself.
The writing is sometimes of Shakespearean quality at other times you will think of Dickens and Poe. Sometimes punches are delivered with overwhelming power, other times a scene is build up so elaborately and slowly it makes you wonder if time has indeed stopped.
At well over 1000 pages, excluding all the extras, you are starting a long journey. I made a few pit stops on my way, relaxing with some less demanding books, and I advis
Kara Babcock
One of the more pernicious aspects of epic fantasy is medieval stasis. Even as we celebrate the freedoms made possible through democracy, we revel in escapism to an inherently oppressive setting, where hereditary titles are standard-issue and the plot often involves helping a rightful heir regain the throne. This is but one of the many tensions that arises in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (or Titus) books. The eponymous castle is a grand affair in its own right, but it is the locus of a much grande ...more
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, reviewed
Not to be compared with Lord of the Rings but appreciated as its own distinctive universe, owing more stylistic debts to Carroll, Poe, Dickens and a touch of Kafka, Mervyn Peake's world of Gormenghast is a dark and bizarre fairy tale without the fairies, or more aptly, a tale of grotesques. Once I gathered the rhythm of the prose, I couldn't escape the sprawling labyrinth that is the castle centerpiece of the first two novels, Titus Groan and Gormenghast, nor did I want to, which is why I, as so ...more
Teresa Edgerton
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing

The castle of Gormenghast is an immense rambling structure, made up of meandering corridors, countless courtyards, towers, libraries, attics, and underground passages — there are, as well, vast regions the author leaves unexplored, and it is more than likely the inhabitants have forgotten they even exist. If this were not enough, there is another tremendous landscape across the rooftops. Within this remarkable building the Groan family and its servitors enac
Paul Sánchez Keighley
Links to my reviews:
- Titus Groan ★★★★★
- Gormenghast ★★★★★+
- Titus Alone ★★★★☆
Inderjit Sanghera
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
One reviewer once quipped that Gormenghast reads like "Dickens on crack"- a statement which, perhaps, accurately describes the weird, wonderful and whimsical world of Gormenghast; from the cantankerous Flay to the Machiavellian Steerpike, to the lachrymose Lord Gormenghast and the eccentric Doctor Prunesquallor, the cast of characters who populate the novel only serve to accentuate the outlandish and grotesque, drug-addled atmosphere which pervades the novel.

Not only this, but the reader's sense
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-fun
Got, oh, maybe 150 pages into this and couldn't get excited about it, so I gave up.

I have repeatedly been told of the mastery of this book. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood. In general, I do go for dark and intricate and elaborate. But I just couldn't make myself care about this world or its people. I couldn't get into the right "suspension of disbelief" mindset -- kept having intrusive thoughts like, "Wait, where do the inhabitants of this castle get food from?" or, "Wait, I've seen trul
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Forgive the cliche, but there just are not enough stars for this trilogy. This is a masterswork about a fantastic world in a village in a castle. This is fantasy that owes absolutely nothing to Tolkien (not that I'm putting him down, LOTR is fabulous) If one thinks of Middle Earth as a Macrocosm, then Goremenghast is a Microcosm. Think of Dickens, Intoxicated with the English Language, writing a Gothic Fantasy, and you get some of the feeling. I have read this book 3 times, and I am sure I will ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I watched the BBC mini-series and have it tentatively marked as something to consider reading some day cuz somewhence it's been indicated that it's readable. But no urgency, apparently.

It's here: and Netflix stocks it.

Watching the series clarifies why Vollmann recommends "the first two books" of the trilogy. The two (approx. the first three episodes of four) are charmingly Alice in Wonderland-ish absurdishness and quirkishness and the final episode is mos
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I reviewed each book in this trilogy separately, but this was the actual edition I read. Overall, I easily give the trilogy 5 stars, even though the last book did not have the same setting and characters as the first two and so I couldn't help but rate it slightly lower. This edition includes numerous critiques and essays which have been interesting to read so far.
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"I am tired of your words," said Titus.
"I use them as a kind of lattice-work," said Muzzlehatch. "They hide me away from me...let alone from you. Words can be tiresome as a swarm of insects. They can prick and buzz! Words can be no more than a series of farts; or on the other hand they can be adamantine, obdurate, inviolable, stone upon stone. Rather like your 'so-called Gormenghast' (you notice that I use the same phrase again. The phrase that makes you cross?) For although you have learned, it
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See similar books…
Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English modernist writer, artist, poet and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, though the Titus books would be more accurate: the three works that exist were the beginning of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, following his protagonist Titus Groan from cradle to grave, but Peake's untimely death prevented compl ...more

Other books in the series

Gormenghast (3 books)
  • Titus Groan (Gormenghast, #1)
  • Gormenghast (Gormenghast, #2)
  • Titus Alone (Gormenghast, #3)

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