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The final book in the Gormenghast Trilogy, considered by many to be one of the greatest fantasy series ever written, right up there with Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. Mr. Peak died before completing his last book, and Titus Alone was compiled after his death from his notes. The book is weaker than the first two installments for that reason. But the sheer brilliance of the prose makes it a pleasure to listen to.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I believe that Mervyn Peake is one of the best writers I have read since Charles Dickens. He draws characters like none other. His eye for detail and the weirdness of his characters is probably attributable to his being a fine artist in the first instance and a writer second. His biography also states that much of his Gormenghast world is based on his experiences of vast and ancient castles as a child growing up in rural China where his father was a doctor and missionary.
Clearly Titus Groan and Gormenghast (parts one and two of what was to be a series of books) are masterpieces. I have raved on about them, their characters and – to a far lesser extent – their plot. The final book, Titus Alone, should have been the culmination of this vast saga. Again Peake flourishes his craft, but almost immediately one realises something is amiss. The story is fragmented, the timescale confused, the flow is jerky with abrupt, apparently unrelated scenes. There is little cohesion and Peake manages to paint glimpses of people and startling episodes which are not linked in any cohesive way. One gets the impression that the book consists of sketches which will one day be written into a properly structured whole.
Although Titus has fled from Gormenghast and finds himself in another world and in another time altogether the reader soon becomes aware that the characters are merely shallow replicas of the Gormenghast crew – he is a master of character, but it is as if he has created all the characters he can and now churns them out time and again with little variation. The overwhelming impression is one of chaos and surreal anarchy. All of this makes sense when one understands that Peake was in a rapidly declining phase of dementia when writing the book and although still relatively young (about 50) he was losing his mind and would soon be in a home for the rest of his short life. His mental condition reflects in the delirium of his writing. We can only mourn that such a magnificent talent was taken too soon.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Published posthumously and suffering at the hands of an unsympathetic editor, Titus Alone disappointed many readers and baffled critics at the time of its release. It has since been polished and expanded with reference to Mervyn Peake's manuscript notebooks in an attempt to re-create the author's intentions at a time of failing health (though not flagging creativity). The revisions, which include the insertion of whole new chapters, clarify some of the obscurities of the original and make greater play of the nightmarish references to factories, machines and scientists. Although still by no means an easy read, the revised version has a greater logic and cohesion. Unfortunately, although Robert Whitfield concludes his Gormenghast series with the same excellent standard of reading and characterisation of the previous two volumes, he reads from the original version. Therefore, if you are using book and recording together, take care your versions match or, like me, you will find yourself leafing backwards and forwards in vain for the missing sections.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I loved Book 1 & 2 of this classic series but seriously, 'Titus Alone' - not genius, just off in so many ways....
1 of 1 people found this review helpful