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Gormenghast (1998)

Gormenghast (1998)
3.97 of 5 Votes: 3
074939482X (ISBN13: 9780749394820)
vintage classics
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Gormenghast (1998)
Gormenghast (1998)

About book: Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake is a unique book. It is an incomparable masterpiece by one of the most amazing and interesting authors I have ever had the chance to read. And I say “amazing” with the true meaning of the word as this is a book that will amaze you constantly while reading it. See, Peake’s writing is not like anything one might have read. I’m can safely say that Peake must have been a very bold and perceptive man. He sees things that are obvious but always stay out of sight, he explores thoughts that everybody has but nobody admits or realizes. But I think I’m getting carried away, let’s do this in my usual organized way.Characters:To say that Peake’s characters are simply real-like and multidimensional is to underestimate him. To mention that his characters are different, strange and interesting is just scratching the surface. His characters truly live, they are everywhere and nowhere. Everywhere because the reader understands them so well, feels their every thought and sensation in a way. They are so unique and real that it feels as if you’ve known them forever. But they are also nowhere, as they so strange and unique that one can not imagine them existing outside of the encompassing setting of Gormenghast, There can not really be copies anywhere.Even through the third-person perspective, Peake presents them in a very personal level. The reader can feel what they feel, know what they perceive and read most of their thoughts. This very subjective and personal way of coming in contact with each character makes each one of them a protagonist. Nobody is just good or bad, there’s no such thing as black and white in Gormenghast. Each reader loves and hates everybody on various degrees according to their own psyche.Plot:To actually try to create a paragraph talking about plot in a Mervyn Peake book feels like an exercise in futility, not to say a downright silly notion. This book is about progression & turmoil but mostly it’s about change; change in all ways and levels imaginable. In this book, everything changes, and I’m not talking just about the characters.Pacing:As with Peake’s first book, pacing here is also slow. Actually it’s very slow, sometimes sluggishly slow but in an unhurried and deliberate way. But this is exactly what Peake is. There’s no way that this book would be what it is if it was a fast page-turner. Everything needs time here: the reader must take time to absorb the magic and all the details from Peake’s wonderful writing, events need time to happen, characters need time to change, the whole Gormenghast needs time to adjust and evolve. This is not a book for fast consumption and quick satisfaction. This is a grand and exquisite gourmet that must be savored slowly and carefully lest one miss something great!Writing:Let me say that upfront. There’s no writer like Mervyn Peake and you haven’t read anything like it. Peake, while verbose and eloquent, writes with clarity and lucidity, with an obvious purpose and aim, with each word flowing effortlessly into sentences and then into paragraphs that reading this book is like magic. He describes things that are in front of our eyes but we never actually see, he dares dive deep into the human psyche, into feelings we know exist but we avoid facing and brings them up in front of our eyes. Exactly like an experienced photographer who can see things with a different eye and then present that to us in a way we’ve never seen it before. Or like a skilled psychologist who knows which questions to ask to make you realize things about yourself you always knew were there but you never recognized. Well, this is exactly how Peake writes.But enough of my own words, let me give you some quotes! :) To say that the frozen silence contracted itself into a yet higher globe of ice were to under-rate the exquisite tension and to shroud it in words. The atmosphere had become a physical sensation. As when, before a masterpiece, the acid throat contracts, and words are millstones, so when the supernaturally outlandish happens and a masterpiece is launched through the medium of human gesture, then all human volition is withered at the source and the heart of action stops beating. Such a moment was this. Irma, a stalagmite of crimson stone, knew, for all the riot of her veins that a page had turned over. At chapter forty? O no! At chapter one, for she had never lived before save in a pulseless preface. How long did they remain thus? How many times had the earth moved round the sun? How many times had the great blue whales of the northern waters risen to spurt their fountains at the sky? How many reed-bucks had fallen to the claws of how many leopards, while that sublime unit of two-figure statuary remained motionless? It is fruitless to ask. The clocks of the world stood still or should have done. Indeed he had worn that piece of furniture - or symbol of bone-laziness - into such a shape as made the descent of any other body than his own into that crater of undulating horsehair a hazardous enterprise Meanwhile Bellgrove had been savouring love's rare aperitif, the ageless language of the eyes. Noon, ripe as thunder and silent as thought, had fled unfingered. He knew that he was caught up in one of those stretches of time when for anything to happen normally would be abnormal. The dawn was too tense and highly charged for any common happening to survive. He had emptied the bright goblet of romance; at a single gulp he had emptied it. The glass of it lay scattered on the floor. His mother stood before him like a monument. He saw her great outline through the blur of his weakness and his passion. She made no movement at all. Ok I will stop now, I have pages of these quotes and they lose their magic when read out of context. But they are so powerful, oh some of them they truly are!Conclusion:There’s not much more to say at this point. This is not an easy book to read, and I’m afraid many might be left disappointed. But to those who read this with an open mind and do so properly so that they can really enjoy it for what it is, it will be a exceptional experience. Ultimately, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast is a unique book, a wonderful book, a celebration to writing and literature! Read it!5 stars out of 5 !!

An excellent second book in a horrifically creepy trilogy. As the second book in the trilogy, Gormenghast doesn't disappoint with even more eccentric characters and mounting tension with our evil villain, Steerpike. Gormenghast feels as if it's still a part of the first book, it flows so well. In fact, by the way it ended, I almost could have seen the story ending there, and so I'm somewhat perplexed as to how the third book is going to go. For me, the main character out of the myriad of characters to choose from, is not, in fact, a person, but the castle Gormenghast itself. So to see our young Titus Groan heading out at the end of the book, makes me wonder if we'll still have flashbacks of the happenings in our beloved keep. I truly hope so. For those of you who haven't read Peake's trilogy, first, I highly encourage you to do so. And second, telling you how this second book ends in no way depletes from this awesome and ominous story. In this edition we see a host of new characters that add some comic relief, a weird sort of romance that doesn't necessarily sets your heart strings plucking, and the loss of some favorite characters. But that's all in a day's events here at Gormenghast. The romance in particular will make you smile, at least at first, and then those of you who, like me, who have been married for awhile, might see the wry irony that comes from years of having to get along with the same person. In fact, it's almost super-human-like to see how fast the couple goes from gooey-eyed love to bickering old couple. But that's only a smart part of the events in this book. One of my favorite parts is the flood. When I was a kid, I loved to swim and often wondered what it would be like to have each room in the house filled with water so that I could swim from one room to another. In essence, this is what happens in the castle. While the adults deal with the deaths, the sickness, and salvaging what items they can, the kids are busy diving from the turrets into the glassy ponds that used to be rooms and courtyards. Of course, I'm completed conflicted in this revelry. Part of me thinks how much fun it would be to be a kid again and be jumping into a lake from my bedroom window, and then the other half of me is horrified and can't help but think, those are stone walls under that water! What's to keep them from smashing their heads in on those walls when they dive? Either way, the imagery is explicit and entertaining and I never tire of reading Peake's style of writing. Probably there are many themes brought up in other reviews: religion or lack thereof, tradition, ritual, etc. And yes, they're there, however, for my being a Peake virgin, I would like to just continue to bask in the loveliness of the dissertation. The prose that seems to flow so effortlessly from Peake's pen is beguiling and enchanting, and I just want to take a bath in these words. I want to submerge myself in the lush detail of this literature and think of Fuchsia-esque like ways to commit suicide for I am so not worthy to even breathe on the book cover of this talented writer. And yes, this is over-the-top dramatic, but I like to think I've been Fuchsia-inspired and I will leave these cheesy sentences as is. Without a doubt, this is a work of classical literature. The form, the style of writing, its uniqueness, the underlying themes of the human condition and its undefinable genre make it so. But more than anything, its huge following and the magical world that Peake creates shows us his genius. I hear the last book is very different from the first two, and I pray it isn't so.
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More entertaining than book one. The series reaches near perfection with this second book. Titus grows up and decides he doesn't want to become a slave to the insane traditions of Gormenghast, which is not only an enormous castle but an obsessively compulsive society. He tries to break away. Steerpike's wicked deeds continue. Dear, sweet Fuchsia meets her end in one of the most poetic death scenes ever (so much so that it inspired a brilliant song called "The Drowning Man" by the Cure). This one
I'm off on a trip on Friday and am putting Titus Alone off until I'm back because I don't want to lug the trilogy around. I do plan to read it, though. I'm pretty sure it was you, Cecily, who made me aware these books even existed. Thank you!
The sequel to the wonderful Titus Groan. At his christening, Titus, heir to the earldom of Gormenghast (accidentally) ripped the ancient book of ritual and at his earling (aged 2) he blasphemed again by removing sacred objects and casting them into the lake. That congenital rebellion comes to fruition in this book.It starts by summarising the ghostly demise of key characters from the first book and the mark they have left on Titus. Then it does a similar update of key characters who are still alive, hinting at what is to come. This unusual approach sets the tone for a story that is outwardly about a child growing up in the stiflingly ritualistic world of Gormenghast alongside Steerpike’s plotting to gain power, but is really about death and destruction. “There are always eyes” and “days when the living have no substance and the dead are active” leaving a “deathless repercussion”.Nevertheless, there is still humour, principally provided by naughty schoolboys (“the boys changed ammunition to paper pellets only after the THIRD death and “a deal of confusion in the hiding of the bodies”!) and eccentric school masters (one “had once made a point of being at least one mental hour ahead of his class... but who had long since decided to pursue knowledge on an equal footing” and another “was pure symbol... even the ingenious system of delegation whereon his greatness rested was itself worked out by another”). Irma Prune also provides plenty of comic mileage (e.g. creating a fake bosom with a hot water bottle and striving to be stylish). As before there are also touches of mystical unreality.Titus grows up, “suckled on shadows, weaned as it were on webs of ritual”, increasingly restless and rebellious, unloved and longing to break free from the shackles of ceremonies “the significance of which had long been lost to the records”. He runs away to the woods a few times, and each time has an experience that changes him and sets him further adrift from his apparent destiny. In fact the short story, Boy in Darkness, is an account of one such episode, though it is more allegorical than the other Gormenghast stories.Meanwhile, there is a growing sense of evil in the background, with more deaths (some of them grisly) and ultimately destruction on a Biblical scale.Overall, this story is very similar to the volume that precedes it, in setting, structure, tone and the extraordinary vividness of the descriptions (“porous shadow-land... not so much a darkness... as something starved for moonbeams.”). The final volume (Titus Alone) is very different.“There is nowhere else... everything comes to Gormenghast.”A selection of my favourite quotes are here: my Peake/Gormenghast reviews now have their own shelf:
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