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Past BOTM discussions > April 2018 BOTM: Titus Groan - Melvyn Peake

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message 1: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Titus Groan (Gormenghast, #1) by Mervyn Peake Welcome, moderator Dianne.


message 2: by Dianne (last edited Apr 04, 2018 03:49AM) (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Thank you Kristel! It was clear from the results thread that this book draws strong reactions, good or bad! I loved it, I thought it was magical and enchanting and am looking forward to discussing with you all!


message 3: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 459 comments I will be joining and I'm really looking forward to it!
However, I'll be out of town until the 9th, and won't be bringing the book. I have the whole trilogy in one volume, and it's a bit more than I can heft around with me on this trip! I'll do my best to catch up when I return.


message 4: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Sounds good, thanks Leni and safe travels! I have the trilogy in one book too, it’s huge!


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments I will be reading it... though I generally read one book at a time and plan to finish this on the first or second.


message 6: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Ok great Kelly!


message 7: by Dianne (last edited Mar 31, 2018 07:22PM) (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Has anyone started yet? After getting over the initial weirdness of the bright hall of carvings, I found the entire world that Peake created to be mesmerizing - the gorgeous language, the strange characters, the enveloping delicious creepiness of it all. I just learned that Sting played Steerpike in a play version of Titus Groan - who ever would have guessed?


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments I just started. I am listening to an audio version and the initial comparison I can make is to Stoker's Dracula. It has that kind of feeling so far.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments I finished. It is a strange, odd, funny little book. I still feel like it is most like Dracula...


message 10: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 558 comments I listened to this, too. I still need to process. It was ok, but I wasn’t blown away. I am curious to see what happens in the next book.


message 11: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments wow kelly and tracy you read that so fast! Did you feel like it was a traditional gothic novel? What did you think of the odd characters?


message 12: by Liz M (last edited Apr 04, 2018 04:28AM) (new)

Liz M | 194 comments Kelly wrote: "I finished. It is a strange, odd, funny little book. I still feel like it is most like Dracula..."

Ooh, interesting comparison. What I find fascinating about this book is the blend of styles -- no one seems to be able to comfortably categorize it as Gothic or fantasy or.....

I read this years ago when at home with an intense bout of flu -- the feverish kind. I have no memory of the story really, but retain an impression of the mood it created and have a few random, vivid images.


message 13: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
I read this years ago, without the ‘fever’ and what I most remember about the book is the mood. The characters, plot all seemed rather lacking. I was not a fan and have not moved on to the second book even though I own it.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments I think the mood is why I would call it Gothic. But you all are correct -- it isn't exactly right. I have seen some call it Fantasy, but for me that doesn't fit at all.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Dianne wrote: "wow kelly and tracy you read that so fast! Did you feel like it was a traditional gothic novel? What did you think of the odd characters?"

I read one book start to finish and if I listen I often finish in a day. I am an oddball and like to listen at double speed.


message 16: by Diane (new)

Diane  | 2044 comments I read this and the second book last year. Never bothered with the third book, which is supposed to be unfinished. I liked it. It is very different from the other books on the list. I can see why some people love it and others hate it.

I would classify it as a Gothic atmosphere. I agree that Dracula is probably most similar. Also The Castle of Otranto.


message 17: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 558 comments I listen at double speed, too. It was clearly a gothic novel, but I don’t think there was anything traditional about it! The characters were the best part, but I wasn’t excited about the writing-somehow I just couldn’t connect with the story- it felt like reading through molasses.


message 18: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Did you see this yet?

https://www.google.com/amp/s/io9.gizm...

I saw it on Litsy 😂


message 19: by Daisey (new)

Daisey | 257 comments I listened to this on audio as well, as that was what was most easily available to me. Originally, I was really interested by the blurb that I read. However, overall I was disappointed. I was expecting more fantasy and more action. I found the descriptions of the characters and the castle fascinating, but for a very long time at the beginning I was just waiting for things to happen. A few things were described that really piqued my interest, but then nothing came of them, although I wonder if it will later in the series. Later in the book, I felt like the action was picking up, but then it all just seemed to build up in anticipation of the next book in the series instead of for this book.


message 20: by Daisey (new)

Daisey | 257 comments Melissa wrote: "Did you see this yet?

https://www.google.com/amp/s/io9.gizm...

I saw it on Litsy 😂"


Definitely intrigued by this and it may give me more motivation to finish the series than I feel right now if I think I will be able to get the opportunity to watch it.


message 21: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Tracy wrote: "I listen at double speed, too. It was clearly a gothic novel, but I don’t think there was anything traditional about it! The characters were the best part, but I wasn’t excited about the writing-so..."

double speed! How do you guys do that! You must have trained your brains to adapt. Is the audio in a spooky kind of style?


message 22: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Daisey wrote: "I listened to this on audio as well, as that was what was most easily available to me. Originally, I was really interested by the blurb that I read. However, overall I was disappointed. I was expec..."

it's a good point, Daisey, there is so much setting the stage and it is less plot driven. Still, I found the imagery to be creepy and magical, I would dog ear the pages to remember certain turns of phrase and particular passages. Since it is a series, I wonder if all 3 are written in the same way or if the action 'picks up speed' with the others.


message 23: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Diane wrote: "I read this and the second book last year. Never bothered with the third book, which is supposed to be unfinished. I liked it. It is very different from the other books on the list. I can see why s..."

Diane, how was the Castle of Otranto?


message 24: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments Melissa wrote: "Did you see this yet?

https://www.google.com/amp/s/io9.gizm...

I saw it on Litsy 😂"


wow so cool! I never watch tv but i would definitely tune into this. I can't imagine how they would capture the atmosphere of the book!


message 25: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 193 comments What did you all think of Fuchsia? I can't think of another character she reminds me of, other than Harriet the Spy. And I can't quite say why they seem similar to me, other than that they are oddballs in their own worlds with their own agendas. I really adored her character, much more than any of the others in the book. I loved how she would creep into her own private attic space, and hated the thought of anyone else intruding on it. What a strange childhood she had, with her bizarre mother and her millions of cats, and the sad earl, and little brother Titus. I think I liked the twins least of all.


message 26: by Tatjana (new)

Tatjana JP | 293 comments "What did you all think of Fuchsia? I can't think of another character she reminds me of, other than Harriet the Spy. And I can't quite say why they seem similar to me, other than that they are oddb..."

I just came to where Fuchsia is being introduced for the first time. It is a brief description of a girl of around fifteen, with wild black hair wearing shapeless bright red dress and saying "Oh, how I hate people"... I cannot resist to have instant sympathy for her.


message 27: by Jenni (new)

Jenni (sprainedbrain) | 71 comments I finished this book on audio tonight - I really enjoyed it! So atmospheric and it definitely felt like the stage was being set for things to come. Such an eccentric bunch of characters... I love Fuchsia and Dr. Prunesquallor the most, but so many of them really amused me. I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud while listening to this book. Simon Vance is one of my favorite narrators, and he did a great job with this book, but really the writing is so rich and beautiful, I am sure it would have been wonderful on paper, too. Looking forward to reading the next book!


message 28: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1993 comments Mod
Titus Groan
★★★

With a whole book named after him you would expect Titus to be the central character the focus of the plot however that is not so in Titus Groan all the 77th Lord of Gormenghast achieves is being born and making it to 18 months old.

Instead the book focusses on the characters around the new born Lord the ever present Nannie Slagg, his dreamy older sister Fuschia, the manipulative Steerpike, the strange twins Cora and Clarice his aunts and some of the more involved servants Swelter the hugely obese cook, Flay his fathers first servant and Prunesquallor the Doctor.

We are also introduced to people outside of Gormenghast castle who I predict will be important in later books the Dwellers the people who make the carvings for the hall of bright carvings.

Gormenghast itself can be seen as a character in my imagination this is a huge bleak castle hewn from a cliff of rock, it contains such rooms as the root room, full of roots and the spider room, you guessed it full of spiders.

While there is very little in the way of plot this novel is an interesting study of various characters and how they react to each other and to events that occur.


message 29: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 459 comments Those of you with the audio, does the narrator manage the doctor's dreadful laugh? I'm wincing just reading about it!

This book is one of my partner's favourite books. (And yet it has taken me over 15 years to get around to reading it. :-/ But, in my defence, I have read some of his other favourites over the years! They've invariably been great books that take some effort to read.) He has told me that I should feel free to stop after the second book. In fact he regrets reading the third book. He also has the TV-adaptation on DVD. I actually think I bought him that. But I haven't seen it, because I wanted to read the book first. :P Anyway, he loves the adaptation and says that most of the characters are cast absolutely perfectly. So while he is looking forward to a new adaptation by Neil Gaiman, he maintains that the old one is well worth watching too.


message 30: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1391 comments Titus Groan
3.5 stars
I have completed reading Titus Groan and agree with everyone that it is more atmosphere than action. I have to say it was a effort for the first half of the book. I found the characters uniquely drawn but not all that interesting in regards what motivated them. However, slowly, the book drew me in so that I enjoyed being in Gormenghast or experiencing Gormenghast's atmosphere with its endless rooms and hallways populated by people largely driven by legacy and tradition. Unlike most fantasy, there is evil but the evil seems to exist in Steerpike's ambition not in Steerpike himself and in Swelter's prideful need for revenge rather than in Swelter himself. And in the general madness that inhabits every character to more or less a degree. Even the characters that I liked and who have some measure of normalcy; Keda, Fuchsia and the Doctor each are a bit "touched" as my grandmother used to say.
I found Steerpike's rumination on a transition to equality juxtaposed by Sourdust or Barquentine drive for no change at all ever an interesting construct but because you don't like any of them it is a strangely intellectual aside rather than the heart of the book.
I also became aware and marveled at how Peake constructed a world so limited and insular. There is a castle and an earl but no reference to the economy of that world or the structure of that power. Is there a king somewhere with an army? Who knows or cares? Do the Bright Carvers actually have a way to make a living other than carving (the vast majority of which gets burned) or even raise food? The landscape described is so barren it isn't until Flay has to feed himself that the reader realizes one even could catch a rabbit or fish. Plus there are so few characters and they only interact with each other for the most part (or with birds, cats, tree roots, books) but not with other people. It is almost as if the book is about how narrow your world can be and still be ever so slightly interesting. In this way Rottcod is the personification of the book itself.
Now, of course, I want to know what comes next and yet I am not sure I want to read the second book. Perhaps it is better to let the madness and the mist and the crags and the questions just be and remember the book for that.


message 31: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4116 comments Mod
Good reviews of this book. I remember the book after all these years as being bleak, dark, with not much happening. Your reviews fit my lasting memories.


message 32: by Chili (new)

Chili Hanson (chilipinkcat) | 59 comments I'm not sure what to think of this book. In my head, these characters were muppets. Ms. Piggy is Gertrude, the Swedish Chef is Swelter, Scooter is Steerpike and Statler and Waldorf in drag are Cora and Clarice. I did chuckle to myself picturing this. From the title I was expecting more about Titus, not just his birth and occasional appearance. Not much happens. I have a very vivid picture of Gormenghast in my head. It's bleak, gray, cold and lonely. For a huge castle, the characters seem very isolated, not really involved in what happens around them.


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