Well do I remember the momentous day in 1975 when a good friend loaned me a copy of Titus Groan and suggested I might enjoy it. Enjoy it? I was hooked from that first glimpse of the Hall of Bright Carvings; utterly transfixed by strange but compelling stories of the denizens of Gormenghast: a weird place and weird people, to be sure, but not so weird as to be beyond recognition. Peake's prose is masterful throughout; his characters are so profoundly realised that you really do feel you know them: Fuschia, Prunesquallor, Steerpike, Titus himself, my personal hero Mr Flay...wonderful. The narrative has been critized for being ponderous, but bear in mind this is a "big read" and it is best absorbed at a steady pace. The action, when it comes, is all the more startling: consider the cobweb-strewn battle to the death between Flay and the loathsome Swelter, and in Gormenghast, Titus's deadly encounter with Steerpike (now evil personified) amid the stifling ivy. "Titus Groan" and "Gormenghast" are famously more satisfying than "Titus Alone", written when Peake was seriously ill and fading fast, but even "Titus Alone" has some strangely affecting characters and situations. Its strangeness is more disturbing than the first two books however, which are totally enthralling. Since that first encounter over 25 years ago I have re-read this trilogy many, many times, always with more enjoyment than the time before. I made a chess-set with characters from the book (grey scrubbers make great pawns) and have enlivened many a dull day at work by likening some of my colleagues (in my minds eye, of course) to some of Peake's so-called grotesques...the Civil Service is not without its Barquentines and Sourdusts, not to mention the Deadyawns and Cutflowers! This is one book (along with the Bible) I would just not want to be without.