Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review of the Day: Titus Groan




Titus Groan is the 77th Earl of Gormenghast, born in the opening pages of this first novel in Mervin Peake’s famous Gormenghast Trilogy. Although considered a “fantasy” classic, the novel should not be cubbyhole by its genre. There are no wizards, warlocks, orcs, or walking trees. The inhabitants of Gormenghast Castle come in the recognizable forms of humans, cats, birds, and other common creatures.

The story is fantastic in that it is free of geographical or historical constraints. It seems to be set in a Britain “of yore,” but is so self-contained that it does not matter. The point is the elaborate world contained within the sprawling walls of Gormenghast Castle.

The plot centers on the canny, 17-year-old Steerpike, who aims to control Gormenghast. In this first volume, we watch Steerpike wriggle his way up the ladder of power from a post as kitchen scullion, to the servant of the awkwardly endearing Dr. Prunesquallor, into an elaborate plot that gives him command over the nitwit twin sisters of the aged 76th Earl, to the exalted position of heir-apparent to the Master of Ritual at the castle. Who knows what heights he will reach in the remaining volumes.

Peake fills every page of Steerpike’s journey with intricate details of the ceremonies, manners, foibles, and relationships that govern the Groan family and their court. Darkly humorous and lusciously written, Titus Groan is a novel to get lost in.


NOTES

This book is listed on at least one of the lists I am working on, but I am too scatterbrained by trial prep to remember which one right now. I will figure it out and add the information later.

This counts as one of my books for the Typically British Challenge.

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