So, I have reached then end of book one of the Gormenghast trilogy and it has been overall an enjoyable experience. As I’ve previously mentioned, the prose is extremely descriptive and may not be to everyone’s tastes. Certainly, if you’re not used to reading literary fiction, it might be a tough introduction. I was surprised to find myself laughing. Gormenghast has its fair share of humour within the pages if you persevere.
The world of Gormenghast is gothic and surreal with a heavy emphasis on nature being a shaping force. Peake is excellent at painting a picture in the reader’s head. Often a sense of scale is hard to convey through words, but I could really imagine the vastness of the castle and its grounds. When the Earl requests to meet his son for the first time, a full on trek seems to take place just to walk between rooms.
For the Groans, change is unheard of and life in the castle is run strictly by predetermined traditions. Titus is born into this world around the same time as a young kitchen hand, Steerpike, decides he’s had enough of his lot and plots to get ahead in life. Titus’ sister Fuchsia, is used to being an only child but would never had had the Earldom granted to her, but she must now learn to cope with a brother and lessening attention. It’s exactly the right time for Steerpike to enter her life and also bring about change unlike Gormenghast has seen before.
There’s a naivety to many of the characters that makes them oddly endearing. The Groan family have been isolated in their rambling home and have been restricted by centuries old traditions which hasn’t exactly given them much experience with the real world. After an initial false start, I’ve grown quite fond of them.
Titus Groan would be disappointing as a standalone novel. It is clearly written as part of a wider story and therefore doesn’t have a satisfying ending or a really strong plot. The story of Keda, her lovers and her child seems really out of place and I can only think that she will be instrumental later on in the trilogy.
I’m reading Gormenghast both for the Farm Lane Books readlong and the “Books I Should Have Read By Now” challenge.