Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Gormenghast Trilogy

I'm working my way through this little 900+ page story.  Well, it's not really that big of a story, because it's three books in one, and I've read a few trilogies that are longer.  I thought I'd just write a little about my initial impressions of it.

This was my initial impression when I opened it at the first page of the first book, Titus Groan, and started reading:


The first, ooh, hundred pages, shall we say, were BRILLIANT.  I am now on about page 260, and I must say that my love for the book has gone off the boil a little bit.  I've been waiting for something, something epic, something to do with bigness, something that involves masses of little characters, something ...

This is what the blurb says on the back of the copy I have:

'Gormenghast is the vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir.  Gothic labyrinth of roofs and turrets, cloisters and corridors, stairwells and dungeons, it is also the cobwebbed kingdom of Byzantine government and age-old ritual, a world primed to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder ...'

Now, it all has the potential to be there, but I'm still waiting for it.  I know that the castle is vast, because I've been told that it is, but I'm still waiting to see any of it.  I've been allowed to see a little bit of it, right at the beginning when Flay walks about an area of the castle watching everyone celebrate the birth of Titus, but nothing really that suggests to me that I'm glimpsing just a teeny little section of a much bigger place.  At first I was introduced to a fair few characters in fairly quick succession, and I was hoping that the introductions would continue apace, but all of a sudden they stopped and it seemed that I'd met everyone I was going to meet, at least in this the first book.  I'm disappointed by that, because I really would like to meet more servants, and more dignitaries and such.  For such a vast castle, there are very few people at the hub.  There's nothing really wrong with that, but it's just not what I was expecting.  I've not really been made aware of the centuries of intrigue either - there's been no history recounted at all so far.  I can understand that that is because nothing has changed at Gormenghast for centuries, but it's just that I was told (as you see above) that there's been all this 'intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder' for centuries - I just find it odd that I'm not told anything about it.  I don't really think that's the fault of the author - Mervyn Peake has written the book that he has written, and it's good, seriously good: it's the blurb that's misleading.

But anyhow, I'm carrying on with the book, because I really do like it, and am enjoying it very much.  The characters that I have been presented with are beautifully drawn, deliciously caricatured.  Strange that Titus Groan is a baby, and barely seems to feature in the book - but obviously he's going to become the title character is the second and third books, Gormenghast and Titus Alone.

I think I might be reading this book for about seven months though, since I'm only managing to read about ten pages a day.

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