Thursday, March 31, 2016


This beautiful hardcover was quite the workout.  Weighing in at nearly three pounds, I had to quickly come up with some strategies to rescue my arms and wrists from possible damage!  The book includes all three books, Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone, and has many of Peake's previously unpublished illustrations.  
Because it was such a physical workout, I had to work up the muscular strength to handle this book on a daily basis so reading one chapter at a sitting had me inching forward quite slowly, which wasn't such a bad thing.  The story gave me a lot to contemplate (I have often thought that I don't really need to meditate when I have such books because I transcend to another place and achieve peace of mind and rest for my spirit).  By the time I was at the last book Titus Alone I was just whipping through five chapters or so at a sitting.
I could see, while I was slowly working through this great work, a lot of influences (from the past and for the future).  I saw Charles Dickens in the extraordinary names of the characters, and in Peake's language, the descriptions of the people and staff of Gormenghast was alike passages in my favorite Dickens novels.  If you can think of the sweetest, softest and saddest adagio like this one Symphony #10 Adagio then you would have a pretty good idea of what this kind of writing evokes emotionally in me.

So, my first thoughts were that Peake loved his Dickens.  What occurred to me next while partaking of this symphony of words and illustrations was that Susannah Clarke must have loved this book as well, and it shows in her own equally beautiful (and huge!) novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel 
 (you can see my blog post here Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel).  These two books actually sit next to each other on my bookshelf.  

The trilogy truly was a symphony from beginning to end, though somewhat disjointed by the last book (because Peake was not able to finish it before he died).  It was a lot of work, sometimes hard work, but very worth it in the end because this is a story that is worth knowing.  I think his world of Gormenghast was so accurately described that I could really see how it was.  The BBC concurs with me, I think, because when they did their four hour miniseries of the first two books,  it was spot on.  Read the book, watch the miniseries.  I loved them both.

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