Gormenghast Read-Along: Week One of Titus Groan

How is that I had never heard of this novel until Jackie mentioned hosting a read-along of it to start in June? A novel of which C.S. Lewis wrote, ” (Peake’s books) are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience.”

After a sentence like that, there’s hardly a need for me to write of Peake’s first book, but I shall try. Titus Groan. At first, I was thinking of “groan” as a verb. “And in that case,” I thought, “shouldn’t it be Titus Groans?” But, he is “the Future of the Blood line. A tiny weight that was Gormenghast, a Groan of the strict lineage – Titus, the Seventy-Seventh.”

If you think that his name is strange, consider these: Lord Sepulchrave, the Countess Gertrude (his wife), Fuchsia (their eldest child), Doctor Prunesquallor, Mr Rottcodd, Flay, Swelter, Nannie Slagg, Steerpike and Sourdust. Such wonderful characters, created by Mervyn Peake, to inhabit this strange land of his where there are those who live within, the “Castles”, and those who do not, the “Dwellers”.

I cannot conceive what will come next, as the foundation has been laid for Titus, the heir apparent, to show us of which he’s made. For Steerpike, the seventeen year old boy apprentice who at the close of this section has just escaped from the room in which the cook, Swelter, had locked him. For Fuchsia, who cannot bear that she now has a little brother, Titus, with strange violet eyes. It is a story beyond my wildest imaginings, unique and spectacular in scope.

So far, I like Fuchsia the best. The daughter with a mane of black, curly hair who likes certain pictures more than others. “What Fuchsia wanted from a picture was something unexpected. It was as though she enjoyed the artist telling her something quite fresh and new. Something she had never thought of before.”

Just as Mervyn Peake is telling us in his wonderfully fabricated book.

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27 thoughts on “Gormenghast Read-Along: Week One of Titus Groan”

  1. I'm so pleased that you are enjoying it as much as I am! I admit that I hadn't heard of this book until a few months ago either. I just happened to spot it in a book shop and was also wowed by the quotes. It is sad how books like this seem to disappear from the radar, but at least we are bringing it to the attention of a few more people. Let's hope the rest of the book is just as good. 🙂

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  2. Oops, forgot to email you to tell you that this book arrived. Thank you so very much for sharing your extra copy. I hope you continue to enjoy it. Look forward to your thoughts once you've finished the first novel.

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  3. Jackie, that must have been some bookshop to have this up and about. I was immediately entranced when I saw the quotes, myself, especially that of C. S. Lewis'. I'm so glad you brought it up, I just love it! What a world Peake has created, and where normally lots of description drives me nuts, this is so atmospheric I enjoy every owrd.Carl, it's really good. I think that when you pick it up, at the right time for yourself, you'll really enjoy it. On a side note, I remember reading The Game of Thrones for your OUAT Challenge several years ago, and that's another fantasy book I loved but wouldn't have known about had it not been for your influence. Like this with Jackie's help.

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  4. Game of Thrones was one of those books that I just *had* to read. It is my best friend's favorite series and after about 8 years of bugging me about it (gently and gracefully I might add) I could live with the guilt any longer! After all, he had read A Bunch of the books I recommended. I'm glad you enjoyed GoT. The more I hear about the content of the later books (and of the current tv show), the more reluctant I am to keep going with it. We'll see how it all plays out.

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  5. Carl, I don't know much about the books to come. I did start the second (Clash of Kings?) and became quickly buried. I own them all, as I got so excited after completing the first in the series, but I haven't read them all. Perhaps some day. Still, Game of Thrones will remain one of my top favorite fantasy novels, and Gormenghast is up there, too. They are of fantastic stuff.

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  6. I don't either, other than some assumptions and the knowledge that something happened in either the third or fourth book that so upset my best friend's wife that she stopped reading the series, and she was a BIG fan as well.My frustration is probably more aimed at what I've read about the tv show, where HBO has amped up the sexuality. My tolerance for rape in stories has never really been there to begin with, because usually it doesn't come along with any redeeming value it just feels like a shock factor thing, and I'm getting more and more intolerant of sex in shows just to see naked bodies, especially when it is put out there not as romance but just as a degradation to women (which it sounds like much of GoT sex is). Anyway, to each his own and I don't want to sound judgmental and I may end up watching the show, but I've got to say that I am less excited about it than I had previously been.

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  7. Hmmm, now I want to keep reading to see what it is your friend's wife came up against! As to the television show, we don't get HBO so that's not even an option for me. A little sex in the right place, for the right reasons, is a good thing…but now there seems to be little discretion as to where to put it in. Little discretion, and little rhyme or reason other than 'shock value'. Although, what's shocking any more? The children in my class are shocked at nothing, sad to say.

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  8. That is sad, but so true. It is this article that really got me thinking about how far we've come in our society as far as showing stuff on television and yet how far we haven't come: women are still usually the objects of some narcissistic male fantasy vs. sex and sexuality being part of an experience where both participants are getting their needs met.http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-06-05/game-of-thrones-sexual-politics/I'm sure I sound more and more like a prude, but the reality is that I expect more out of that part of a relationship. I'm all for the fun, the adventure, etc. but shouldn't it be about both people and not just the woman performing *for* the man?And as far as GoT goes, there was so much great story in there. I'd rather see them sacrificing some of the sex for the sake of sex time and actually see them use that time for the exploration of other story elements.

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  9. Col, maybe you'll have time to join us? The anthology in my photograph is actually all three books together, but Titus Groan itself is not too long. It's wonderful!Carl, what a fun conversation to have with you; thanks for revisiting and leaving your thoughts. I'll go to the link you left and see what's up.

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  10. I actually first heard of this when PBS aired a miniseries adaptation of the first 2 books a few years back. I've not read any of them yet, so I don't know how the two compare, but the books are definitely on my 'eventually' radar. I actually bought the 3-book set for my brother for Christmas as he's much more of a fantasy reader than I am, so when I get to them, I know who I can borrow the book from!

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  11. Oh, I loved Gormenghast! Discovered it as a teenager, I don't remember how. But I think of it as more Dickens than fantasy, what you'd get if you stuck all of Dickens's weird and unsavouries in a castle. I recall finding the doctor particularly unlikeable, in a wonderful way. Enjoy!(Glad to hear the kudos for the Game of Thrones. I have the 2nd and 3rd books lined up to go! I'd started watching on tv, but it moves too slow, I think because it's trying so hard to be faithful. I think the Harry Potter movies suffer something similar wrt pacing.)

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  12. Simplerpastimes, I can't believe all the novels being aired on television (PBS or HBO) that I've not seen. Well, maybe 'all' isn't a correct term, but you mention Gormenghast and Carl mentioned Game of Thrones; both are novels I'm really enjoying. Lucky for you that you can borrow it from your brother; I should loan my anthology to my son who adores fantasy even more than I.

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  13. Isabella, how good to hear from you again! Another person commented on Jackie's blog about the fact that Dickens seems to be represented in the Gormenghast books, and I definitely agree! There's something both charming and sinister going on, which just compels me to keep reading. It's delightful stuff.We'll have to talk about books two and three of the Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin. I haven't gone past Game of Thrones yet, though.

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  14. I read this book a good few years ago now & thoroughly loved it totally immersed myself in its world. On a related subject there has recently been published a collection of his illustration with with stories by Michael Moorcock.

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  15. Bookfool, what?! You're a greedy book pig? Good, so am I! That's part of why we're friends. xoxoParrish, it is a world in which to totally immerse oneself. Bizarre and thrilling and atmospheric, and I just got to the part where the Earl (Lord Sepulchrave) has turned into a black owl…maybe not the thing to be reading on a night of terrible thunder and lightning as last night? Still, very fun!

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  16. Kathleen, you can't imagine what an intriguing book it is! As Parris mentioned, you just become lost in the setting, the characters, the atmosphere, and the unexpected. Do you have time to join us?

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  17. I have never heard of this one, you're educating me! :)That is high praise,and the characters gave the best names! I'll have to put this one on the trb.

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  18. I've never "met" anyone else who read Gormenghast! I read it years ago and loved it. For some reason I didn't continue on with the series…will have to look them up at the library. Also, on Game of Thrones, I've read all in the Series so far (and am eagerly waiting for A Dance with Dragons to come out this summer) and I can assure you that the books just keep getting better. However, as someone else commented, there is a LOT of sexual violence. I think some of it is very disturbing, but the books are compelling enough for me to keep reading. So glad I found your blog!

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  19. Kristin, there is time for you to join in the read-along which Jackie is hosting all this summer. Titus Groans is for June, Gormenghast is for July, Titus Awakes is for August, and there's a new one (to be released soon, from his widow, I think) for September. Check out the tab under Challenges in my sidebar for more information, or go to farmlanebooks' site from her comment on top.Now I'm encouraged to read more of the series from George R. R. Martin. I put it down after A Game of Thrones, but I loved that book. You've convinced me to pick the rest up!So glad you found me, too. I'm coming by to see you now.

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  20. Unfortunately I cannot join. I'm so remiss in responding (sorry about that). I've had health issues and haven't done much reading or blogging for several weeks.

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