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Titus Groan

(Gormenghast #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  17,875 ratings  ·  1,681 reviews
Starts with the birth and ends with the first birthday celebrations of the heir to the grand, tradition-bound castle of Gormenghast. A grand miasma of doom and foreboding weaves over the sterile rituals of the castle. Villainous Steerpike seeks to exploit the gaps between the formal rituals and the emotional needs of the ruling family for his own profit.
Paperback, 396 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Overlook Press (first published 1946)
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Popular Answered Questions
The Usual Crikey!
I'm not even going to try to answer the first part of the question because:
1/ It would probably take an entire essay to do the job properly. …more
I'm not even going to try to answer the first part of the question because:
1/ It would probably take an entire essay to do the job properly.
2/ I don't subscribe to Tolstoy's notions of what constitutes "good" and "bad" art. And
3/ I strongly suspect I'm not bright enough to understand what you're driving at.
This brings me to part 2.
To me, Titus Groan is a delight to read, which is more than I can say for Tolkien. Whilst I would never accuse my fellow readers of ineptitude (reserving that for certain best-selling writers), it is a quite densely written book. and does require a decent vocabulary. Presumably this does put a few people off, as does the claustrophobic atmosphere, and the way that the plot is really just something to hang the (frankly gorgeous and deliciously overwritten) descriptive passages on.
It's one of those books that you either love or hate depending on whether you "get it" or not. (less)
Daniel Bristow-Bailey I think the chapter headings with quotation marks are quotes from the text of the chapter.

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  17,875 ratings  ·  1,681 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, gothic

What an odd fantasy! No swords, no sorcery, no elves, no thieves, no imaginary beasts, no multiple planes of existence . . . nothing but a cavernous castle peopled by eccentrics with Dickensian names (Sepulchrave, Prunesquallor, Swelter, Flay) whose lives are determined by centuries--perhaps millenia--of complex rituals. Although the people themselves seem to be British, the enormous burden of tradition under which they labor seems Asiatic in its detailed intensity, and it is instructive to lear
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 would close my eyes and snap the book shut, overwhelmed with wonderment, and take a moment to catch my breath.

I would drop m
How to review this weird and wonderful book? The setting, characters and plot etc are extraordinary, but it is the language that is utterly bewitching. The fact Peake was also an artist is evident in the special care with which he describes light (or absence of), skin and textures. Anthony Burgess wrote that it “has the kind of three dimensional solidity which we often find in pictorial artists who take to words… illustrations would have been supererogatory” – even though Peake sketched in the m ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Dear book,

I am breaking up with you. It is not me, it is you. It is not you, it is me; others think you are really cute. I thought you were more romantic and mysterious. I got bored with you, but this is really just me. There were moments I was really happy and excited with you, even if they were few and between. Unfortunately these moments came too late in our relationships. You are a good guy and I hope you will find happiness in your life. Please do not invite me to a date: I am washing my ha
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2016-shelf
As I was reading this, I kept thinking of all the great and richly-detailed fantasies I've ever read, from Tad Williams to Robin Hobb, and then I just had to look up when this book had come out.

You see, I have this thing. I like to read a book, or at least books that are considered classics or the best of their genre, with a clear and un-jaundiced eye. So sometimes I don't even read the blurb or the date of publication. Actually, I rarely look at the date. I can usually figure it out by the styl

dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before

Imagine a gigantic, gothic-like edifice with an endless maze of galleries, roofs, stairs and secret passages. There are the Stone Lanes and the Hall of Bright Carvings, cat room and Hall of Spiders, the Tower of Flints and somewhere up in the clouds a Field of Flagstones; there are forgotten wings, dark corridors, dusty attics; there are primeval cedars and emerald mirrors of lawns. The castle, truly stony monster, is huge and inconceivably o
”The darkness came down over the castle and the Twisted Woods and over Gormenghast Mountain. The long tables of the Dwellers were hidden in the thickness of a starless night….”

This is the book hailed by Tolkien separatists as one to rival The Lord of the Rings. This is the book that supposedly is the best book in the fantasy genre. We are all entitled to our opinions, but after having read Titus Groan, I simply cannot understand why anyone would even come close to that conclusion.

To me, this
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Mervyn Peake was one of those gifted people you burningly resent, he was a brilliant artist and then he thought oh I need something else to occupy my time when I'm not doing brilliant drawings and paintings, hmm what can I do, ah yes I'll write one of the century's greatest fantasies in one of the most individual and beautiful prose styles, and create about a dozen of the most memorable and delightful characters in all of fiction, including a real heartbreaker of a heroine called Fuchsia, yes, h ...more
Christopher Paolini
Titus Groan is another one of my favorite books and it, along with The Worm Ouroboros, had a big influence on me while writing the Inheritance Cycle. The prose is incredible—it’s the ultimate gothic fantasy. And it’s so rich, it’s actually a little bit hard to read in one sitting; it’s better taken in small chunks.

Mervyn Peake, like so many authors who survived and endured the World Wars—World War One particularly—had a sense of the grotesque and the grotesquely beautiful that is hard to find.
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”
There stands the Gormenghast - as if sealed inside a crystal ball - looming in all its grotesque wonder. The old, musty smell. The susurrus of narrow passages. The torches casting an eerie circle of light. The hustle and bustle of the castle dwe
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, epic-fantasy
Well...sorry. I'm sure many will be a bit shocked and saddened by my rating. It only goes to show that as I've said before when it comes to novels it's a bit of "to each their own".

This is a wonderfully well written novel and has been around since 1946. There are different types of fantasy. To simply say this is epic fantasy doesn't really tell you anything as it simply tells you the "tale" is of epic scale. I'd say that in a way (as they are in some sense contemporaries)This book and The Lord o
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Titus Groan is the tale of a bunch of truly odd and grotesque people living in a grotesque old castle.


Maybe it's just me (neither bleak nor grotesque is my thing; put them together and I'm liable to slit my throat), but I just could not with this book. I generally love fantasy of all kinds, but I found this book very creepy in an off-putting kind of way, sort of like one of Tim Burton's weirder movies. (I still haven't forgiven him for Batman Returns.)

It was also grim and gruesome and boring. S
Lynne King
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-favo
My favourite book of all time is “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell but I have now met a worthy contender in Mervyn Peake’s “Titus Groan” to bring to the same elevated level. The books marry very well indeed and the two distinct structures span the gamut of every conceivable emotion that the human brain is capable of absorbing I believe. So I’m on a win-win situation here with both books.

And as for this tour de force, how can one even attempt to describe the amazing prose that Peake ha
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good and evil: good is open but fragile, evil is strong and it hides…
Titus Groan is a conflict of the new and the old, a clash of the neoteric and the traditional… But first of all it is a collision of the extraordinary and the commonplace.
“Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its out
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've decided to review this in instalments, otherwise my reading challenge for the year will be kaput. It's a very long novel - my copy runs to 996 pages.

An interesting aspect of any novel is how much energy and imagination the author has invested in it. Mervyn Peake has clearly invested every last drop of his energy and imagination into creating the world of Gormenghast. He wants you to see every detail he sees. Which is both the virtue and flaw of this novel. It is probably overly described b
Ian "Marvin" Graye
The World of Gormenghast

"Titus Groan" is a work of fantasy constructed in a painterly manner without much obvious concern for narrative dynamism.

First, Mervyn Peake builds the static grey stone world of Gormenghast Castle, then he populates it with Lord Sepulchrave (the Earl of Groan) and a few key members and servants of his family, and finally bit by bit he permits them to interact.

The world of Gormenghast has a Gothic solidity about it. It has been built from the hallowed ground up out of bot
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy

Gormenghast Castle by Ian Miller

“Lowering himself suddenly to his knees he placed his right eye at the keyhole, and controlling the oscillation of his head and the vagaries of his left eye, he was able by dint of concentration to observe, within three inches of his keyholed eye, an eye which was not his, being not only of a different colour to his own iron marble but being, which is more convincing, on the other side of the door. This third eye which was going through the same performance as the
Paul Sánchez Keighley
Too often does the fantasy genre feel contented with a good concept at the expense of style. In Titus Groan, Peake's unrelentingly descriptive and asphyxiatingly atmospheric writing is as much a part of the experience as the concept, and one wouldn't be complete without the other. His style is a velvet glove tailored to fit a clammy, cadaverous hand.

This is a perfect example of a book impervious to film adaptation. One can take the story to the big screen, sure, and it might even be great, but t
Olivier Delaye
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mervyn Peake was a poet, a word-slinger extraordinaire, who, despite his untimely demise due to dementia at the age of 57, managed to leave behind the deservedly famous Gormenghast trilogy, a cyclopean masterpiece of "Fantasy-flavored albeit genreless literature" the likes of which had never been seen before or since. The first installment, Titus Groan, was published in 1946 to rapturous reviews. And rapture is indeed the state you will find yourself in if you only allow Peake to take you by the ...more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Good:
Absolutely wonderful prose, and I’m generally not a fan of the literary stuff. This story is incredibly atmospheric – from the suffocating oppression of the setting to the enormous tragicomic characters. I felt like I was watching rather than reading. Also, there is a multitude of cats.

The Bad:
It was a mile high stack of metaphors, like a book overfull of similes. My periods of horrified fascination were separated by too frequent episodes of boredom, as the characters just walked around
A. Dawes
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Titus Groan is Peake's magnificent addition to the oeuvre of 20th century gothic. Peake takes the genre and rather than subvert it, he embellishes it on every level. The dense descriptive language; the isolation that exists within this intricate castle; the macabre and gothic array of exquisite characters; all combine to create a cold, greying atmosphere, but with the most exquisitely colourful characters you'll find in literature.

Titus Groan is the finest of the Gormenghast Trilogy - possibly
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is difficult to believe that this book was written by a human. It reads like an unearthed mythology, discovered on a far away planet in a cave filled with treasure.

Derivating from the Tolkien model for fantasy, Peake's genius is certainly the progenitor for all non horses-and-swords books of the genre. And his ability to create an ensemble book without a strong lead character is simply amazing. There should be a graduate class taught on his methods of characterization and the importance of co
May 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is much easier to like Gormenghast after you are done reading it. Because reading it is a torturous experience like none other.

It has taken me close to three and a half months to finish this 470 pages book, that too with enforced discipline and self goading way beyond my normal will power (I finished a book of 270 pages in a day - yesterday, just as a comparison).

It is very well written, no doubt, and aspiring writers perhaps could read this again and again. For a reader who is looking for a
Jonathan Terrington

Titus Groan is a novel that defies classification yet it is one hundred percent powerfully written and one hundred percent a classic. It is however not for those who don't like to patiently sit through a long, description driven narrative. But for those who appreciate those elements in a work of fiction or perhaps those who found the unique ideas of The Trial interesting I strongly recommend this novel.

The best genre that I could possibly associate this with is fantasy. However it is also a nove
Gregor Xane
Feb 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Titus Groan is considered by many to be a masterpiece of the literature of the fantastic. I don't think that I can argue with that assessment. However, I can say that it's a masterpiece that I certainly wasn't pleased to be reading for much of the time I was doing so. The primary reason for this was that I felt that it was overly descriptive, tediously so. And I think of myself as someone who has a high tolerance for fictional works that others deem too descriptive.

Below you'll find a passage d
David Katzman
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I have all books of a series on hand, I tend to prefer to review them together. In the case of the Gormenghast trilogy, I'm going to review books 1 and 2 as a pair and then book 3 separately. Titus Groan (Book 1) and Gormenghast (Book 2) are very much a pair and feel nearly complete while Titus Alone (Book 3) takes us off in a new direction.

The first two parts of this series are incredible! Absolutely and highly recommended. The story is not quite fantasy but close, if you count an imaginar
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Looking for a drive on the dark side? Something grotesque and dripping with unwarranted behavior? How about some characters that are so repulsive, you can't help but be drawn into their world? A world of such descriptive horror that you're both terrified to watch, yet oddly hypnotized? Well, then step right in, into the world of Titus Groan, the next Earl of Groan, the heir of Gormenghast Castle, the castle which is pretty much our main character in and of itself. It's a place where time seems t ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific start to this epic fantasy series. I had a bit of a hard time getting started with it but once I got into it the pages flew by. I loved the castle and the Victorian feel to it. The character development is first rate. I loved the whimsical aspect to it. I was horrified at the prospect of burning books. I read this with some friends and I almost skipped it because I wasn't sure it was really going to work for me but I'm so glad I didn't as it ended up being 5 very enthusiastic stars. I c ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In very broad terms, writers have to deal with two main issues when putting their stories to paper: the 'macro' issue (i.e., the overall plot, theme(s), and desired character development), and the 'micro' issue (wordsmithing, prose, and style). The greatest writers, in their greatest works, manage to nail one issue, while successfully covering their shortcomings on the other. Mervyn Peake not only managed to nail both issues in toto, he is left with plenty of literary "hammer power" to spare.

This marks my 1,000th book read as listed on Goodreads! And this landmark should be, and is, something spectacular, awesome, unique, unclassifiable, brilliant, and unequaled. Oddly, I'd never even heard of this author or of any of his books until a few months ago when a goodreads friend brought him to my attention. This trilogy has been compared to "Lord of the Rings" but I don't know why: this isn't fantasy, or syfy, or...well, anything. (Besides, it is so much better, so much more imaginative ...more
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Reading 1001: Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake 6 41 Sep 11, 2020 01:48PM  
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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)
  • Gormenghast (Gormenghast, #2)
  • Titus Alone (Gormenghast, #3)

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