As the first novel opens, Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born: he stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that stand for Gormenghast Castle.
Inside, all events are predetermined by a complex ritual, lost in history, understood only by Sourdust, Lord of the Library. There are tears and strange laughter; fierce births and deaths beneath umbrageous ceilings; dreams and violence and disenchantment contained within a labyrinth of stone.
About the Author
Mervyn Peake was born in 1911 in Kuling, Central Southern China, where his father was a medical missionary. His education began in China and then continued at Eltham College in South East London, followed by the Croydon School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Subsequently he became an artist, married the painter Maeve Gilmore in 1937 and had three children. During the Second World War he established a reputation as a gifted book illustrator for Ride a Cock Horse (1940), The Hunting of the Snark (1941), and The Rime of The Ancient Mariner (1943). Titus Groan was published in 1946, followed in 1950 by Gormenghast. Among his other works are Shapes and Sounds (1941), Rhymes Without Reason (1944), Letters from a Lost Uncle (1948) and Mr Pye (1953). He also wrote a number of plays including The Wit to Woo (1957), which was met by critical failure. Titus Alone was published in 1959. Mervyn Peake died in 1968.
A ponderous effort in Gothic fantasy, overlong, obscure, and only rarely lightened by any measure of the inventive talent that might redeem it. A sombre, night-marish book, with a strange and serie tale set in a vacuum of place and time. The scene is the ancient seat of the house of Groan, wherein a tragic Earl rules, or fails to rule, his household, his wife, surrounded by her snow-white cats, her magpie and raven and rook and owl, his chief servant, Mr. Flay; Swelter, the huge, sadistic head cook and his minion; the librarian Sourdust and his crippled son, both dour ancients, ; the curator, the nurse, first to his fey? daughter, then to the newborn heir who gives the name to the book. Outside the castle are the whinnying Dr. Prunesquallor, Steerpike, once kitchen apprentice, now on his own search for power, the old twin aunts, vengeful and bitter, and the strange people who submit their carvings once a year for the Earl's approval. The story covers a year in the life of the newborn babe, punctuated by strange rituals, by Steerpike's climb to power, by the Earl's disappearance, and by the saga of Keda, the wet nurse. Perhaps the most interesting character is Fuschia, the daughter, but even she is not much more than a gleam in the author's eye. A difficult book, impossible to place, and very limited in its appeal. (Kirkus Reviews)