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The Gormenghast Novels [Paperback]

Mervyn Peake
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal greatness May 3 2004
There are many books that I might as well not have read for all that I can remember of them, but Gormenghast remains vividly alive for me years later. The castle is more real in my mind than many places I've visited in reality. The settings and chatacters are so well realized that my imagination hardly had to fill in any blanks.
Grotesquery pervades nearly every passage, but not always of a revolting kind. Moments of great humor, suspense, dread, and outrage drive the story, with an engaging plot threading through the first two installments. The third breaks abruptly from the rest of the trilogy, and I don't pretend to understand why Peake chose to go in the direction he did. This is not to say that the third part is bad - it is quite good - but the continuity with the previous parts is nearly entirely cut. There remain strong thematic connections, and I do perceive an overall relationship and point, but I remain confused by the shift nonetheless. Perhaps you won't be.
I do not recommend this book for anyone looking for a page turner or who is put off by an unconventional style. Gormenghast is like a huge panoramic painting in words. Don't look for a linear, action-driven structure. Just dive in and let Peake's unparalleled prose transport you to one of the most complex and bizarre psychological landscapes around.
This edition also includes some critical essays by prominent writers. I have not finished reading these, but they appear very worthwhile.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A wonder ful fantasy June 1 2004
It took me quite a while to get through this, but it was worth it.
Some of the reviewer's talk about all the symbolism, but I'd recommend reading the book just for the fantasy of it and the wonderful prose of Mr. Peake. Some reviewer's talked about how it was slow moving and boring. At times the pace of the book did slow, but in those times read for the beauty of the words and the vivid picture that is painted by those words.
This is a collection of three books, Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone. I will admit that I enjoyed the 1st two books much more than the last, Titus Alone. Titus Alone seemed to take such a departure from the first two that I had a hard time relating it back to the first two.
I'd recommend these for someone who wants to get lost in another world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A piece of literary genius April 27 2004
By A Customer
As an avid reader and devourer of English literature, I was prepared to be disappointed in this "classic". I read the reviews, and I thought the story line sounded a bit preposterous, but I was intrigued enough that I thought I'd give Mervyn Peake a try.
I have never been so enthralled by a book before (and for me, that's saying something). I found myself racing through it so I could start reading it all over again. And I didn't just reread this trilogy, I lovingly dissected it.
Mervyn Peake was a genius with language-he painted pictures with his words. His command of the English language was masterful-I had to keep Webster's dictionary next to me as I read his works-he used words I didn't know existed.
The Gormenghast trilogy defies classification. Mere summaries cannot do it justice. This is, by far, the most profound book I have ever read.
Why couldn't I have found this book twenty years ago?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Needed editing Feb. 10 2004
By A Customer
A good story but needed some editing...has long dry passages that don't seem to add much to the story. Overall a very gothic feeling to the book...Peake does a great job portraying a very melancholy world filled with dark obsessive characters. Entertaining and thought provoking but certainly not a book that has an epic story or very driven plot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, Beautiful, Complex and Unforgettable Feb. 1 2004
This book is almost impossible to describe. The Author, Mervyn Peake, is the same man who drew the 'Alice in Wonderland' illustrations that we all grew up with. If you could draw a book instead of having to write it, this would be that novel. You will find plenty of reviews here that quote portions of the text, because it's very difficult to peg down what kind of novel this truly is, and quoting text at least gives you an idea of what to expect. I will just say, if you love literature, serious literature, then this book will remain a part of you for the rest of your life. It's a tragedy that Peake became ill and the rest of the Gormenghast World that obviously existed in such exquisite detail in the author's mind, will never be known.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Strangest Book in the World Dec 15 2003
Actually, this book does have something in common with Tolkiens: they are both "Wierd". (We just forget how bizare the Professors is due to all the Barbara Cartland - esque action - adventure that has tried to imitate him). But i would rather compare Peake to Kafka, or sir Malory.
Some fantastic fiction breaks the laws of physics: Gormenghasts breaks those of litteratue itself, which is far more disturbing. It also has a lot of what could, on one level, be enjoyed as melodrama: and some pretty word - pictures, for those who like that kind of thing.
There are also several mentions of Pirates.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Lost Masterpiece of Dark Fantasy Sept. 4 2003
By A Customer
As other reviewers have pointed out, this novel is compared, somewhat erroneously, to Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, because both fall loosely under the heading of fantasy. This is a misclassification on the same level as saying that Beckett's work is similar to Arthur Miller's because both of them wrote plays. Tolkein is concerned with elves, and Peake is concerned with the darker aspects of human nature, obsession, overweaning ambition, the desire for vengance, melancholy, madness, alienation, and so on. His characters have been described as Dickensian grotesques, but often they are far more developed than that, even though they are much more bizarre than the characters that Dickens created. Can Steerpike, Prunesquallor, Fuschia or Flay honestly be classified as a grotesque, when they exhibit so many different facets to their personality? Steerpike in particular is fascinating. Though he is an outright sociopath, he is not without motivation, or some level of justification, in his actions/reactions to his environment. A doctoral thesis could be written about what Steerpike tells us about the nature of human evil alone.
In addition to his remarkable gift for characterization, Peake is an accomplished poet, capable of incredible flights of fancy infused with a sense of doomed romanticism, which no other fantasist comes close to emulating. Everything in Gormenghast is decaying and ancient, and this decay is rendered palpable through Peake's verbal alchemy. The plot is wonderful as well, and Peake pulls off moments of surreal beauty (such as the depiction of the flooded castle and the hunt for Steerpike in boats), edge of your seat suspense, harrowing descents into madness worthy of King Lear, and absolute heartbreak which moved me to tears.
In short, the Gormenghast Trilogy, in spite of its obscurity and classification as "fantasy", is one of the major literary accomplishments of the 20th century. If you love literature, don't miss out on it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lose yourself in Gormenghast
Mervyn Peake's three complete "Gormenghast" novels are the products of an amazingly fertile imagination with a unique understanding of the synergy of myth and reality. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2003 by A.J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Have Faith...
The first few chapters of 'Titus Groan', to my way of thinking, breaks every stated rule of successful fiction writing, and I was so very tempted to put it down, lacking faith that... Read more
Published on Dec 2 2002 by **SkipKent**
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Secret.
Not many people in Canada (or North America in general) know about this book. And I'm the kind of person who likes to keep incredible things like this secret. Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2002 by B. Stoller
5.0 out of 5 stars The Peak of Literature
Gormenghast is, to me, the most beautiful use of the written English language, as Richard Burton's recitation of "Under Milkwood", by Dylan Thomas, is of the spoken. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2002 by jennifer
5.0 out of 5 stars A jaw which hangs...
This is by far my favorite series of books. I am floored by the talent which graces each page. As blasphemous as it may be, Tolkein and Shakespeare need to go back to school in... Read more
Published on July 23 2002 by "bfitzharris"
5.0 out of 5 stars So you like quirky....?
If you enjoy bizarre characters in incredible, dark, nay CREEPY surroundings, saturated with generations of barely-hinted-at myths and tradition, you'll love the Gormenghast... Read more
Published on May 29 2002 by Ellen C. Falkenberry
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