• Titus Groan

  • Volume 1 of the Gormenghast Trilogy
  • By: Mervyn Peake
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Series: Gormenghast, Book 1
  • Length: 17 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-11-01
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.5 (574 ratings)

Regular price: $27.97

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Publisher's Summary

In Volume 1 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 first volume, the Gormenghast Castle, and the noble family who inhabits it, are introduced, along with the infant firstborn son of the Lord and Countess. Titus Groan is sent away to be raised by a wet nurse, with only a gold ring from his mother, and ordered to not be brought back until the age of six. By his christening, he learns from his much older sisters that epileptic fits are "common at his age." He also learns that they don't like his mother. And then, he is crowned, and called, "Child-inheritor of the rivers, of the Tower of Flints and the dark recesses beneath cold stairways and the sunny summer lawns. Child-inheritor of the spring breeze that blow in from the jarl forests and of the autumn misery in petal, scale, and wing. Winter's white brilliance on a thousand turrets and summer's torpor among walls that crumble..."
In these extraordinary novels, Peake has created a world where all is like a dream - lush, fantastical, vivid; a symbol of dark struggle.
©1967 Mervyn Peake (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks
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Critic Reviews

"[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
5 out of 5 stars
By Benjamin L. Alpers on 09-11-07

Count Me Among the Peake Fans

As others have noted, Peake is often spoken of in the same breath as Tolkein. They are undoubtedly two of the greatest English fantasy novelists of the twentieth century. But rather than thinking of Peake as similar to Tolkein, it's perhaps best to think of him as the anti-Tolkein. Both Peake and Tolkein are great at what they do, but they're up to rather different things. If The Lord of the Rings is a basically celebratory series that focuses on plot, Peake's Gormenghast books (not, by design, a trilogy, but the first three books of a longer series cut short by Peake's untimely death) are deeply cynical and are about character and, above all, setting. While Tolkein's world is full of magic, monsters, and a variety of non-human races, Peake's is largely without all these things.

I'm a longtime Tolkein fan who is now also a Peake fan. Plenty of people appreciate the qualities of both authors. But others love one and detest the other. For example, the great British novelist Michael Moorcock is a proponent of Peake and a detractor of Tolkein.

At any rate, this book is a classic that deserves a listen by those prepared for something un-Middle Earth-y. And Robert Whitfield's reading is truly outstanding, as he effectively brings to life the many characters who populate Peake's book.

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34 of 35 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Zachariah on 08-17-09

A great book ,no cliches, worth the effort

I completely understand why a lot of readers would give this book a low rating. Many readers, and especially readers of fantasy, get very comfortable with the presence of cliches, and this book just doesn't give them any. Titus Groan doesn't have a grand good vs evil narrative, there is no sword play, nor wizards, nor damsels in distress, nor teenager-saves-the-world narrative. You get none of the usual formulas. The action is sparse, the language is thick, and the world is just sort of weird. It's not something that an average teenage fantasy fan will enjoy.

With that said, Titus Groan is a fantasy masterpiece. In its weird way, it's every bit as rich as Tolkien or Rowling. The characters are bizarrely entertaining, and the challenges they face are, if not quite the all-encompassing fight for civilization, nonetheless poignant and intriguing. As strange as the novel is, it feels more real than most fantasy.

Titus Groan is a novel without a contrived road-map, and it is as much high literature as it is fantasy. Good literature is challenging: it forces you to think, and if you engage in it, it is far more rewarding than a thousand sword and sorcerer novels. Readers who think in cliches will either fail to understand the novel or will grow frustrated at the meandering plot. But for those who like a challenge, who enjoy reading about a fantastical world for its own sake, and who have an attention span that hasn't been crippled by frenetic, pop-culture oriented fantasies, this book is well worth it. It's strange and rich and utterly unlike anything you're ever going to see again. It's beautiful.

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44 of 46 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By John on 06-08-07

Wonderful

I have never read this book and so its vastness, its pettiness, its eruptions of darkness came as a wonderful surprise to me. I found my self laughing out loud at some of the situations Peake constructed and gasping at the brutality of his darker moments. A wonderful book, wonderfully read.

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13 of 14 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Tim on 11-20-08

Slow to start with, then wonderful...

I sympathise with the previous reviewer who gave up on this book, I almost did too. I bought it after a recommendation on Macbreak weekly, but it took most of the first part of the recording to capture me.

I think it's probably that after a fairly slow establishing of character and location, once the plot actually thickens, then it's compelling, and I came to enjoy the rather flowery descriptions, the strange interludes and the quirky weird world of the book. Even the names are brilliant: Flay and Swelter, Steerpike and Prunesqualor...

I think it's an excellent reading (though for some reason there's a repeated paragraph at the start of each audio chapter, at least in the second part of the download?) and the various voices of the characters are clearly recognisable by the time you reach the second half.

So, I will be downloading the next one and probably the third of the trilogy.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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