Gormenghast : Gormenghast

  • by Mervyn Peake
  • Narrated by Robert Whitfield
  • Series: Gormenghast
  • 18 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In Volume 2 of the classic Gormenghast Trilogy, a doomed lord, an emergent hero, and an array of bizarre creatures haunt the world of Gormenghast Castle. This trilogy, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reigns as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of everything is the 77th Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom.In this second volume, Titus comes of age within the walls of Gormenghast Castle and discovers various family intrigues. His twin aunts, Cora and Clarice, have been imprisoned in their own apartments, believing that they alone among the castle inhabitants were free of a hideous disease referred to as "Weasel plague." Titus has discovered secret hiding places in abandoned parts of the castle from which he can watch and learn, unobserved: for he has been "exiled" to grow up with the common children until the age of 15. And so, not feeling connected to his future responsibilities, Titus drifts back and forth between the complicated social world he will grow up to govern, and a world of fantasy and daydream.

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What the Critics Say

"[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." (C.S. Lewis)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not just a book - an experience!

I was enthralled by this second book in the trilogy. A lot more happens in this book than in the first, Titus Groan, but the rich detail is still there. The amount of description in this book does not make it in any way boring, because the pace is varied in a masterful way - a long passage may culminate in a sudden moment of laugh-out-loud humor, or the death of a major character can occur in a couple of lines. The reading is beautifully done and the voices of the characters sound just right. I'm hooked.
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- Jane Steen

A “Supernaturally Outlandish” Masterpiece

Gormenghast (1950), the second novel in Mervyn Peake’s classic fantasy trilogy, opens with seven-year-old Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Gormenghast, already conflicted by rebellious desires to be free from the meaningless ritual and dry duty of the castle and from his role as its figurehead. The novel depicts his maturing into a sensitive and self-aware young man scarred by violence, seasoned by loss, and attracted by the world outside. Into that plot Peake weaves the career of the amoral ex-kitchen boy Steerpike, scheming his way ever deeper into the heart of Gormenghast. And for comic relief, Peake spends (almost too) much time with Professor Bellgrove, his bachelor colleagues, and Irma Prunesquallor, who wants a husband.

There are many memorable set pieces in the novel, like the moment when Titus and his sister Fuchsia discover that they love each other, the “Bachelorette” soiree at the Prunesquallors, the demise of an anile headmaster, the game of marbles in the Lichen Fort, the tracking of a satanic outlaw, the aborted ceremony of the Bright Carvings, the encounter with the wild Thing in the forest cave, the Biblical flooding of the castle, and the schoolboy game featuring a classroom window 100 feet above the ground, a giant plane tree, a pair of polished floor boards, and a gauntlet of slingshots.

Reader Robert Whitfield’s narrator is clear, refined, and sympathetic, and his character voices varied and on target (especially Dr. Prunesquallor, Irma, Bellgrove, Barquentine, Steerpike, and Flay). But his Fuchsia needs more raw passion and less nasal whine and his Countess Gertrude more gravitas and less dowager quaver. And there is an odd glitch whereby about twenty times during the course of the book Whitfield’s sentences jarringly repeat.

Gormenghast resembles Titus Groan, the first novel in the trilogy. Both novels are set in a vividly realized castle world populated by grotesque denizens. Both intoxicate the reader with rich language, baroque detail, painterly description, and blended humor and pathos. Both leave images etched upon the mind’s eye. Both feature long passages of conversation or description punctuated by unpredictable scenes of suspenseful action. Both express themes about the primacy of passion and imagination over reason and calculation and the comforting and stultifying influence of tradition on human lives. Although both novels are “fantasies of manners,” however, Gormenghast is also a romantic comedy, a British school story, a gothic thriller, and a bildungsroman. And it highlights new themes: the conflict between duty and freedom and the transformations, wonders, and absurdities of love and aging.

Finally, Gormenghast, like Titus Groan, is a unique masterpiece that offers a satisfying conclusion to the story arc of the first two novels that perhaps renders the third book, Titus Alone, unnecessary.
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- Jefferson "I love listening to or reading books--especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, classics, & historical."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-11-2001
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.