This was a remarkable fantasy novel, one unlike I haven’t read before. Its predecessor Titus Groan was of a magnificence of creating the universe of the castle Gormenghast, its inhabitants and outer dwellers, but in Gormenghast the castle takes center stage as it reveals more nooks, crannies, hidden pathways and secret windows than I could’ve imagined.
The story starts a few years after the ending of the first novel in this trilogy. Titus Groan begins with the birth of the 77th earl of Gormenghast and ends with the death of the 76th earl of Gormenghast when the former is turning one year old.
Gormenghast takes place when Titus is a boy of seven and he’s being brought up to rule in his father’s stead. On one hand he’s being educated as if he’s one of the common folks, but on the other hand he already is forced to undergo the many rituals that make up an ordinary day at the castle. All of the members who survived the first novel are again greeted in this second volume. Flay, Fuchsia, Steerpike, The Countess and many others. The main focus is on Titus, but the desires, schemes and worries of the others aren’t forgotten, which gives enormous depth to the novel.
The story-telling of Mervyn Peake is gothic to say the least. It isn’t ordinary English, it’s almost a work of art in which he tries to convey a life that centers around age old rituals and in a castle so big that none of its occupants realize its full capacity. Trying to contemplate the size and scale of the castle is like trying to fit an entire alien world into a teardrop, it just won’t happen. I don’t even think that the castle has given up all of her secrets. There’s still a third, a final novel, to be explored and even though I’m going to wait a while before I will dive in, I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s going to be something else, as this volume ended with Titus leaving. Such a cliffhanger!
I’m a big fan of fantasy, especially when it’s completely out of the box, a world where barely anything can be related to the “real” world. The Gormenghast trilogy is daunting to say the least, but very rewarding once you set your mind to it. I’ve mastered the skillful word-weaving in which Mervyn Peake can describe their surroundings as well as the characters inner moods. I feel like I’ve discovered something very valuable here. A novel that I won’t lightly forget.
And can you believe that I’m probably the first that has ever checked out this novel in our library? It’s been there since 1999 and not even a single crease in its backbone.. It makes me feel a bit like I’m inhabiting an alien planet where no one speaks my language.