Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Moving on from camels, but not from the surreal...

I recently finished reading the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. No mean feat I can tell you! This is a whacking great read of over a thousand pages in the volume I picked.

The first book is entitled "Titus Groan" and was first published in 1946. What a ground breaker that must have been! That was followed by "Gormenghast" in 1950 and finally by the heavily edited "Titus Alone" in 1959.

Mervyn Laurence Peake (July 9th 1911 – November 17th 1968) was both a writer and an illustrator. Sadly he suffered in his later years from a debilitating illness which left him unable to complete the series of Gormenghast books. This does impact upon the trilogy with the first two volumes being eminently more readable & enjoyable than the final book. The characters throughout are intricately described in the most evocative of expressions - my ultimate favourite being the description of the twin sisters Clarice & Cora "So limp of brain that for them to conceive an idea is to risk a haemorrhage." Genius!

The 3 books could equally have been entitled "A Life of Titus Groan" since that is more accurately what they are. The first two are set in the confines and suburbs of the castle of Gormenghast but the final book follows Titus away on his travels as he escapes the limitations of the Castle. I felt reading this as if Titus could be living out the dreams of any of the younger members of our current royal family (in the UK)!

The books are dark, bizarre and nightmarish in places but at the same time they manage to be like fairy tales full of light and magic. These tales should be compulsory reading for anyone with an appreciation of the English Language.

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