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Titus Groan [Paperback]

Mervyn Peake
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 27 1970 Modern Classics
The first title of the GORMENGHAST trilogy of fantasy novels. Titus groan is born the heir to Gormenghast castle, and finds himself in a world predetermined by complex rituals that have been made obscure by the passage of time. Along the corridors of the castle, the child encounters some of the dark characters who will shape his life.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Amazon

Mervyn Peake's gothic masterpiece, the Gormenghast trilogy, begins with the superlative Titus Groan, a darkly humorous, stunningly complex tale of the first two years in the life of the heir to an ancient, rambling castle. The Gormenghast royal family, the castle's decidedly eccentric staff, and the peasant artisans living around the dreary, crumbling structure make up the cast of characters in this engrossing story. Peake's command of language and unique style set the tone and shape of an intricate, slow-moving world of ritual and stasis:
The walls of the vast room which were streaming with calid moisture, were built with gray slabs of stone and were the personal concern of a company of eighteen men known as the 'Grey Scrubbers'.... On every day of the year from three hours before daybreak until about eleven o'clock, when the scaffolding and ladders became a hindrance to the cooks, the Grey Scrubbers fulfilled their hereditary calling.
Peake has been compared to Dickens, Tolkien, and Peacock, but Titus Groan is truly unique. Unforgettable characters with names like Steerpike and Prunesquallor make their way through an architecturally stifling world, with lots of dark corners around to dampen any whimsy that might arise. This true classic is a feast of words unlike anything else in the world of fantasy. Those who explore Gormenghast castle will be richly rewarded. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In this illustrated Gothic trilogy, a young heir matures within the confines of bleak Gormenghast castle. Volume three includes 12 critical essays and Peake's unfinished Titus Awakes .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enormous pleasure to read. April 26 2004
This is the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy (before Gormenghast and Titus Alone).
The castle of Gormenghast is a huge, maze-like fortress built on the side of a mountain. It's surrounded by a tall wall, that helps keep the noble "Castle" people and their menials inside, and the "Bright Carvers", a tribal people who live in mud dwellings, outside on the arid plain.
In this first volume, we're introduced to the castle's inhabitants, amidst the bustle of Titus the seventy-seventh Earl's birth, and a few days later, of his christening. There's the melancholic Lord Sepulchrave, the seventy-sixth and current Earl of Groan, his enormous wife Gertrude and her white cats, and their teenage daughter Fuchsia. And there is Mrs. Slagg, the frail old Nanny who's always complaning about her poor heart, and Mr. Flay, the Earl's tall first servant with the clicking knees. And also Mr. Rottcodd, curator of the Hall of Bright Carvings, and Sourdust the Librarian, guardian of the Protocol. Doctor Prunesquallor with his nervous laughter, and his spinsterly sister Irma, as well as Swelter the tyrannic cook and his kitchen boys, among which the young Steerpike. Then come Cora and Clarice, the Earl's asinine twin sisters, envious of his and Gertrude's power... and a few others.
As the story flows, we watch these numerous protagonists interact, as Steerpike slowly works his way up the ranks of the castle. Charming high-born ladies, plotting arson, nothing daunts him. And what was a so well-greased, fine-tuned machine of minutiae and protocol, the very essence of Gormenghast, is starting to crumble slowly and inexorably.
It's very hard to summarize Titus Groan in a couple of paragraphs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have never read anything quite like this!
The first book revolves loosely around a newborn Titus Groan that is heir to the earldom of Gormenghast and it's Castle, an archaic, monolithic, stiffly-traditioned place. Throughout the first volume, we meet various members of the castle staff, the royal family and even a few commoners. You'll love Peake's unique way of portraying characters with his hilarious attention to detail. I don't think I'll ever forget the eccentric Mr. Flay or the effeminate Dr. Prune... The Antagonist, Steerpike, has got to be the most villainous, calculating creature I've come across in any book. He's someone you'll love to hate, but also admire. Since this is one of those rare books in which you can easily become attached to the characters, I'll warn you, Peake is not hesitant to dispose of them!
At first, there doesn't seem to be a definitive plot to follow. But, as the story progresses and Titus matures, you begin to see that he is feeling more and more strangled by this static castle life. But, Titus and nearly all of the castle's dwellers are ignorant of what lies beyond Gormenghast. It's important to note that the reader is also kept in the dark. You get the impression that Gormenghast "Was, is and always shall be." And if it's inhabitants have ever dreamed of lands beyond, it is doubtful that any could consciously imagine any other place.
The truth is revealed in book 3. Believing there is nothing left for him, Titus does the unthinkable and abandons his castle, his people and more importantly, his duties as the 77th Earl. The world Titus finds is quite unlike his own. So different in fact that he begins to doubt it ever existed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting read Aug. 12 2001
By A Customer
My mother told me that the book was worth reading a few years ago, but she had never finished it herself. I have never been able to understand how she put it down and forgot about it - to me that seems impossible. From the start I was transfixed by the twisted, stagnant air that arose from the book, with the characters immersed in their strange lives and rituals. It was totally engulfing, and I immediently placed it with my favourite books of all time. Through all the perverse reason and decided weirdness about the characters you cannot help feeing a strange empathy for them, and Peake's take on humanity cracks through. The Gormenghast trilogy are those sort of books that grab you somewhere inside and pull you through the chapters. Then, when you are finished, they don't let you go, but stay with you. I have always judged whether I truly enjoyed a book by the effect it has on me afterwards. If I continue to think about it a few books on, I know that I loved it. And these books have continued to haunt my mind ever since I picked the first one up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life-changing book Aug. 3 2000
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, wow... what a fantastic world Peake creates.
There is not one author who can write like Mervyn Peake. This man had such a command of the english language that when he writes, he creates vivid images and pictures in your mind... Read more
Published on June 10 2002 by Steve R.
3.0 out of 5 stars got patience?
I do like this book. However, I don't think it should even be considered as being on par with Tolkien. Read more
Published on Dec 3 2001 by "catofninetails"
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't be fooled by the ratings.
After an hour and 40 minutes I had to shut the tape off. Seems as though the writer has forgotten that the plot is the most important piece of a book. Total torture. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2001 by speerstra
4.0 out of 5 stars Before Goths there was Mervyn Peake
The Gormenghast Trilogy consists of two wonderful books, Titus Groan and Gormenghast, and one dreadfully confused book Titus Alone. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2001 by W. Weinstein
4.0 out of 5 stars Do you really like fantasy?
I certainly won't say that "You don't REALLY like fantasy if you don't like this book." However, giving this book a try will help you self-identify, as to whether you... Read more
Published on March 6 2001 by Extollager
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Masterpiece
This begins Mervyn Peake's epic trilogy. The trilogy can stand with anything in Western Literature (By the way is there really an Eastern Literature?). Read more
Published on June 2 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars a reflection of a man's imagination..
Titus Groan is a novel that's hard to classify. It's sort of a fairy tale for grown-ups. All the characters take place in this large kingdom/castle called Gormenghast, and the... Read more
Published on June 1 2000 by lazza
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Titus Groan and Gormenghast, the first two books in the Gormenghast trilogy, are easily the best books I have ever read, the best books I can even imagine reading. Read more
Published on May 17 2000 by Thomas Hackney
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This is the only book I have ever read that forced me to adore the English language and wonder what has happened to such beautiful flights of the imagination. Read more
Published on April 24 2000
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