"The Gormenghast Trilogy," by Mervyn Peake

A few days ago I decided to take a famous list of books and read through it. "Titus Groan", "Gormenghast", and "Titus Alone" are my first of "The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series".

The trilogy begins with the birth of the seventy-seventh Earl of Groan, Titus, and his advent into the Castle Gormenghast. The novels then follow him through his growing years, which, peopled by a host of phantasmagoric characters, unfold in a Gothic comedy of manners, humorous as it is brutal. The plot and characters are written with an obsessive amount of detail that never faltered or drug me into tedium. Rather it expanded my view of the world till it became more real and visible than the little room that I was sitting in.

Mervyn Peake died when he was just fifty seven leaving his series of books unfinished. The horrors he witnessed during the second World War greatly affected him, and his writing was allegedly cathartic. I can attest that suffering, mental and physical, is a very real and well written part of his books; it tempers the fantastic nature of the world of Gormenghast and I emotionally committed. I did need a bit of a break after reading the first two books in less than 48 hours otherwise I was going to start shaking some of the people I knew while yelling, "Why doesn't anyone do something!”

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The third book of Mervyn Peake’s trilogy, “Titus Alone”, had been pieced together and completed after he had passed away, and so is a deviation from the polished and finished first two works. I found the plot more dream like and splintered but still good and has the literary voice of the first two.

Here is a direct quote from "Gormenghast," the second of the trilogy, a description of the Castle Gormenghast in the winter:

"In January the snow came down in such a way that those who watched it from behind countless windows could no longer believe in the sharper shapes that lay under the blurred pall, or the colors that were sunk in the darkness of that whiteness. The air itself was smothered with flakes the size of a child's fist, and the terrain bulged with the submerged features of a landscape half remembered."