Group Read: Gormenghast Trilogy - Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone
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Welcome to the group read of The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
July: Titus Groan
September: Titus Alone
I've put all three books into the one thread as I'm not sure how much discussion the books will generate and for most of us the pace of reading will differ.....and feel free to post about anything you'd like, but if you plan to reveal any plot spoilers, please include a warning to that effect.
artist, illustrator, novelist, poet
1911 - 1968
Mervyn Peake, a man of many talents, a creative virtuoso, and an eccentric genius, had a profound and singular interior idea. His work has frequently been compared to that of Dickens, albeit an off-center Dickens with a fantasy element.
Before he wrote "the Titus books," as he called them, Mervyn Peake was a noted illustrator of classic children's books including Treasure Island and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. His in-depth study of renowned illustrators (including William Hogarth, George Cruikshank, Albrecht Dürer, William Blake, Gustave Doré, and Francisco de Goya) served as the foundation for his own work. His illustrations are now highly sought after.
In 1945, as a war artist, Peake was one of the first civilians to enter the German concentration camp at Belsen. He was intensely affected by the event and was left with deep impressions of the victims of the war. Startling and disturbing paintings and poems resulted from that traumatic experience. Biographer John Watney wrote, "For years he had drawn strange worlds. Now he was seeing, in its reality, a monstrous world more terrible than any he could have imagined...." from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/gormenghast/novels/peake.html
There is an official Gormenghast website - http://www.mervynpeake.org/gormenghast/
...and a link to an article about his war art: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/22/mervyn-peake-paintings-national-archive...
Pinterest Boards featuring his art:
Please post the covers of the edition you are reading as there are so many out there:
I'll be reading the 1985 Methuen edition of Titus Groan. The cover art is by Peter Harding and the book has an introduction by Anthony Burgess. I've started the book before and got about 100 pages into it but got distracted so am keen to get through the whole trilogy this time.
I adore Steerpike. I can't wait to see what you think of him.
Here is a link to the picture of the buildings we saw that day.
I never saw the series so don't know if they really do look like the castle as depicted in the series. But they are rather Gothic looking to me.
I worked in that building. My office was at the top of one of the towers at the end of a wing. I had a view over all the roof tops and I can relate to your comments.
Subsequently I worked in the George's Street Arcade building in Dublin. It takes up a complete block and it is even more Gormenghast like when one gets to the roof tops and the attics. I was always finding new passages and stairways that led to abandoned rooms and roof spaces.
Abandoned rooms and roof spaces along with new passages and stairways - How cool is that?
I have just finished watching the BBC miniseries of John Le Carré's Smiley's People, and Alec Guinness was such a brilliant actor he portrayed character and emotions just as you describe it. His character also communicated instructions and the answers to questions without a word. It is a wonderful dramatization of a wonderful book.
I feel this way about all dramatizations of novels or stories. I like to get my own impression of the original story untethered by the constraints of an on screen, or on stage, performance.
This is why I am currently living in a bit of a mini-hell, trying to keep myself from watching even trailers of A Game of Thrones. I've sworn to read the (currently published) novels before I watch the TV series but it's really difficult to stay away.
I will be starting Gormenghast shortly.
pondering my review - will post something probably tomorrow
Got to say I enjoyed it a lot more than I did when I read it 20+ years ago, appreciated the writing a lot more and the evocative setting but still not a huge fan of some of the characters (although guess you're not supposed to be) or some of the "action"
Lots of foreshadowing at the end of this volume. I'll be picking up the second one mid-month.
I particularly like the descriptions and behaviours of the teachers in the second book.
A specific characteristic of the language I quite agree with, nice observation. Peake has a cluster of language usages that work very well for me, such as archaic terms, a poetic sense of description including those unexpected similes, the Byzantine world, Dickensian names, and that odd mixture of moldering tradition and an insistent modernity.
I picked up a copy of Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast last month. According to the blurb/introduction it was put together from notes Peake had made. Apparently he had intended a several book series. Family members put Titus Awakes together to give some idea of how the series was supposed to go.
I do not hold up much hope of it's being very good, so I am set up for a pleasant surprise. My fear is that it will be like Titus Alone.
I must admit that it was a help reading Titus Alone knowing that Peake had been ill when writing it. It meant I was not expecting too much from it and was not therefore thrown badly by the comparison with the previous two books.
I finished Titus Groan in July, Gormenghast just last month. The characters and the, what?, atmosphere of the books are staying strong with me.
Nice review of the trilogy.
edit: changed book title from Titus Groan to Titus Alone - always getting these two mixed up in the posts.