Jim McDonnell's Reviews > Gormenghast

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
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's review
Aug 12, 2011

it was amazing
Read from August 12 to 15, 2011

As ever, as good a read today as it was when I first found it in the late 1970s. Everything I said about 'Titus Groan' still holds true - language is detailed, vivid and descriptive (I read another review in here that described Peake's style as 'painterly', and when I thought about it that was pretty spot-on), the setting of the castle, its surroundings and the strange inhabitants still gripping, byzantine (or is it baroque?) and funny by turns - I particularly like the Schoolmasters, and the increased prominence given to Prunesquallor and his sister, Irma.

This is a darker book though, and also a less coherently written one then 'Titus Groan' - not sure if that's because Peake was already suffering the illness that eventually led to his death, but the plot doesn't flow as smoothly as in 'Titus Groan', and there are definite inconsistencies and lacunae in the telling of the tale itself; which arguably doesn't really get going until the final third where Steerpike is unmasked and hunted. Previous to this the book is largely made up of rather unconnected and episodic parts.

In the end, it leads perfectly on to the third book in the trilogy, which I won't be reading or reviewing; at the end many of the major characters are dead, and Titus runs away from the rituals and restrictions of his home. Book 3, 'Titus Alone', was completed after Peake's death (? I think), and though it has to be completely different from the first 2, as a literary device to mirror Titus' heretical renouncement of his heritage and responsibilities as 77th Earl, I still miss Gormanghast Castle itself: so forme Titus Alone will never work.

This isn't quite as good overall as 'Titus Groan' (although the hunting of Steerpike, and the flooding of Gormenghast is possibly the most gripping event in either book), but if you enjoy volume 1 and want more of the same then it's still a must-read.

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Reading Progress

08/12/2011 page 100
20.0% "The coming of the rain, and the hunt for Steepike - British fantasy at its best..."

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