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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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Product Description

This massive paperback contains the restored 3 Gormenghast novels, i.e. Titus groan. Gormenghast and Titus alone. In addition, there are 12 critical essays and the unfinished fourth nonel, Titus awakes. Some think that Peake is a finer poet than E,A. Poe. Others think that Peake's trilogy is the true fantasy classic of our time, above Tolkien's Lord of the ring.

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Customer Reviews

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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Lose yourself in Gormenghast Jan. 3 2003
By A.J.
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. That their hero Titus Groan, the seventy-seventh earl of Gormenghast, is not even two years old by the end of the first novel is indicative of Peake's willingness to take his time telling a story in meticulous detail.
Evidently modeled on Victorian (or earlier) England, the Gormenghast milieu is an insular place, completely disconnected from the rest of whatever world in which it resides. The castle that is its centerpiece is so large and ancient it is gradually crumbling under the enormous weight of its own monstrous sprawling architecture, a ghastly monument to the dozens of generations and hundreds of years of the Groan hereditary line. (Imagine an Edward Gorey illustration stretching for miles in every direction.) The interior is a labyrinth of cryptic rooms and dark corridors, a network so intricate a dead body could remain undiscovered for years.
Living catatonically in abstract worlds of their own interests, the elder Groan family seem like products of their dreary environment. Titus's father, Lord Sepulchrave (Earl no. 76), is immersed in his extensive library filled with erudite books of undisclosed content; his mother Gertrude is a walking cat magnet and bird sanctuary; his spacey sister Fuchsia is fated to live an idle, vacuous life. Providing comic relief are Sepulchrave's brainless, prattling sisters Cora and Clarice, who are jealous of Gertrude and crave "power," which to them merely means getting to sit on a throne.
As in a Dickens novel, there are several interrelated plot threads weaving the various dramatic conflicts into an ugly but delicate web of palace intrigue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ...Read it ! April 4 2002
The world of the anciant and gigantic castle of Gormenghast, the thousands of dusty corridors, crumbling staircases leading to forgotten rooms, hiding many lost treasurs and terrible and wonderfull secrets lays between the pages of this wonderfull book. And it is a wonderfull book, but it's also fair to warn any one who wants to venture into this disturbed and dark fairy tale that has gone wrong that it is'nt an easy read, and it's the kind of book that takes some commited reading.
The first volume will introduce you to the castle, wich is , in fact, a whole world, and to it's strange and ancient rules and rituals wich dictates every minute of it's existence. To the family of the Groans , the earls of Gormenghast, and to the last link of their old line - Titus Groan, the seventy seventh earl.
Also you'll meet a faithfull servant, a cook with a vengence, a machiavellian kitchen boy striving for greatness, and the plott will be ridiculous and funny and tragic at the same time.
The Second volume -"Gormenghast" Is even better in my opinion, As it further envelops the intriguing and complex characters. All the characters l have found mainly wierd ( if not altogather out of their minds )in the first book suddenly not only made sense to me but have touched me deeply.
This book is worth reading if only for the sake of Fuschia, Titus's older sister, wich is the lonely princess of this gothic legend. At first i regarded her as a spoiled brat who was in a desperate need of a long and expensive therapy, but i promise you wont be able not to resist her for long.
So take a deep breath ( you'll need it at first ) and start reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonder ful fantasy
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... Read more
Published on June 1 2004 by Jackie M. Bachenberg
5.0 out of 5 stars A piece of literary genius
As an avid reader and devourer of English literature, I was prepared to be disappointed in this "classic". Read more
Published on April 27 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed editing
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, Beautiful, Complex and Unforgettable
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2004 by Scott A. Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars The Strangest Book in the World
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 -... Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by Ian Dall
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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