Titus Groan

Titus Groan

by Mervyn Peake, Anthony Burgess

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Overview

An undisputed classic of epic fantasy, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels represent one of the most brilliantly sustained flights of Gothic imagination. 

As the novel opens, Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born. He stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle. Inside, all events are predetermined by a complex ritual whose origins are lost in history and the castle is peopled by dark characters in half-lit corridors. Dreamlike and macabre, Peake's extraordinary novel is one of the most astonishing and fantastic works in modern English fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781468301021
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 06/26/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 376,125
File size: 4 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) wrote plays, painted, as well as being poet, illustrator, short-story writer, and designer of theatrical costumes, as well as a novelist. Among his many books are the Gormenghast novels, Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone.

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Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Hendrydoso More than 1 year ago
For me, reading Titus Groan was like eating three portions of chocolate mousse(my favorite dessert) thoroughly enjoyable but best consumed slowly as it is quite rich. I've always found it easiest to describe it as poetry in prose. He uses his words as color the way a painter would apply brush strokes. In many cases you need not read further than a characters name to get a good insight into who that character is. Lord Sepulchrave, Dr. Prunesquallor(the only sensible character), Steerpike, Flay and Swelter come to mind. I have an unusual love for the way words are strewn together and so my appreciation for this book may be skewed slightly. But to all word lovers, Enjoy.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a deeply weird book it is difficult to describe or categorize. In the introduction, Anthony Burgess, who calls it a "modern classic," comparable to other celebrated British works of the 1940s such as those by Orwell or Waugh, says there "is no really close relative to it in all our prose literature." I actually bought the trilogy this is part of years ago because it was recommended on the "Seven-League Shelf" of "the cream" of modern fantasy works. But there's nothing supernatural in it. Only it's set in an imaginary world not quite ours, a Gothic Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs about a decrepit warren-like castle and its grotesque inhabitants bound by elaborate and arcane ritual. The era is hard to place historically and the feeling of the book very claustrophobic. There doesn't seem to be a world outside Gormenghast Castle for its inhabitants. The title character, Titus, destined to become 77th Earl of Groan and Lord of Gormenghast Castle, is only just born when the 500 plus page novel begins and when it ends he's not yet two-years-old. The characters have such Dickensian names as Sepulchrave, Steerpike, Sourdust and Prunesquallor and no one in the first hundred pages seemed likeable. Titus' mother tells the nanny to take away her newborn son and she'll see him when he's six--then calls her cats to her. The relationship between servants such as Manservant Flay and Chef Swelter and the machinations of kitchen boy Steerpike are positively Byzantine. Lady Fuchsia and Dr Prunesquallor did grow on me though--there was more to both of them than first met the eye and by the middle of the book I was hooked. The language is baroque and the pace defines "leisurely" except that makes it sound too informal and light. Mind you, the prose is, if over-descriptive, aptly descriptive. Everything is vividly painted. And I mean everything from the glass grapes on Nannie Slagg's hat to the cutlery, plates and napkins "folded into the shapes of peacocks" set out for breakfast in Stone Hall. I get why a friend of mine abandoned the book before she reached 100 pages. There is a black humor threaded throughout, but the overall atmosphere is oppressive because all but a few of the characters are some combination of stupid, malignant or mad. I found the book more readable though as I got used to Peake's style and grew more fond of a few of the characters. I certainly will be reading the sequel, Gormenghast.
aaronbaron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The stars and planets conspire to make me like Titus Groan. It has everything I commonly ask for in a novel: unique prose style, vivid descriptions, memorable characters with fantastic names, a sharp sense of humor and an almost bottomless imagination. Yet as much as all these elements, which leap out on every page, delighted me, in the end I did not like Titus Groan. I did not even manage to finish it. There was some ineffable quality that prevented me from turning one more page. I believe it may be in part due to the profoundly static nature of the book. Mervyn Peake (whose own name rivals those of his characters) was a painter and illustrator, and he writes like one. The book is laced with incredible descriptions of an almost Baroque power or accumulated detail. Yet nothing happens. You may as well tour a museum, with each description engraved on a canvas. Peake was no fool, and the story¿s setting the crumbling fantasy kingdom of Gormenghast, plays to the static nature of the writing: it is place full or ancient rituals and little action. The only action in the book revolves around the arriviste Steerpike, but he is really a narrative device rather than a character, his function of creating something akin to a plot is baldly apparent. While a novel or prose-paintings may sound deliciously experimental, and in many ways it is, I began to miss the movement of time. There is also a certain hermetic quality to Titus Groan that wore away at my interest. This is a common danger of any fantasy fiction; it risks completely shutting itself off from the real world. Some see this principle of absolute separatism as a virtue, and I cannot deny that it can produce works, like Titus Groan, of considerable beauty and intelligence. But these novels, for all their brilliance, are hot house flowers. Sooner or later you must close the book, rub your eyes, and step back into the actual world around you. And when you do, those fantastical flowers wither very quickly. And the best books, including fantasy books like the His Dark Materials trilogy and even the Harry Potter series, not only dazzle and delight, they also give you a little something, an idea, an observation, a value, or even a notion, that survives the inevitable transition back into the real world. Titus Groan presents an intricate, gorgeous, labyrinthine world that has no conduit into our own. It is a beautiful, airless vision that may entrance readers, but does not enrich them in any sustainable way.
patience_crabstick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantasy is not my usual genre, but I enjoyed this novel, the first in the Gormenghast series. The ancient family of Groan live a life bound by ritual, in an ancient castle. An heir, (the Titus of the title) has just been born and a kitchen boy schemes to take control. This work is fantasy in that Gormenghast bears no relation to the world as we know it, although it is still reassuringly Earth. The characters, though somewhat grotesque, are human and have the same clocks, dresses, toys that we do. Sometimes funny, always gorgeous, I'm pleased with my discovery of this series.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would be the frst to admit that this is a highly original fantasy novel. It creates a whole world, clearly not our own, but at the same time not relying on the elves/dwarfs/fairies that populate most traditional 'fantasy' novels. It is darkly humorous, all the characters larger than life. I particularly liked the aunts ('breastless as wallpaper'!!!). Having said all that, reading it was a bit of a slog at times. I think in fairness it's just not my genre
clong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Definitely the most unusual book I have read in a long time. Every character is a bizarre combination of creepy, quirky, and likeable (although I don't suppose I can find anything to like about the gluttonous homicidal chef). They rarely interact with each other, and even when they do, they make no real attempt to communicate. I felt oddly ambivalent about Steerpike, the ambitious and deftly manipulative villain, who is in many ways as sympathetic as any of the characters. And the castle itself is a fascinating, barely-explored character, with entire wings that no one has entered in years. I suspect that there are plenty more odd characters and settings to be discovered in the second and third books. Peake's use of English is frequently spellbinding. There are some very funny scenes to help lighten the mood. At times the story moves quickly, but at other times it is slow-paced.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The birth of a son to the house of Groan is a momentous event for Gormenghast, but from that day on things start to go badly wrong. Apparently Mervyn Peake based Gormenghast on the palaces of Chinese nobles, and I can see similarities (with "The Story of the Stone" for example). Gormenghast is an enclosed world, ruled by tradition and ritual but it is strangely isolated; there are no visitors and no castle guard is ever mentioned so presumably it has no enemies. The writing is very descriptive; you can see in your mind's eye exactly what everything looks like, but it does slow your reading down. and I found it quite heavy-going.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gormenghast - actually a trilogy - is one of those stories that I have heard about but never wanted to try, until Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange novel gave me the taste for 'fantastical' (what I would consider not strictly 'fantasy') and Sebastian Faulks discussed the trilogy in his Faulks on Fiction essays. So I downloaded the first in the set, and gave Steerpike and the others a try.For the first half of the novel, I was enchanted, both with Peake's word building and world building. The characters are wonderfully eccentric - my favourites being Flay the butler and the Countess ('I would like to see the boy when he is six') - and the setting of Gormenghast Castle is staggering in its detail. But then, right around the point of uppity kitchen boy Steerpike's great scheme to destroy the old regime, something changed, perhaps in the style - and I lost interest. Getting through the rest was a struggle. Peake's Dickensian language turned purple, and the characters, especially Fuchsia the miserable daughter, had a sort of personality transplant. I'm sure that, after a break, I will go onto read the other two novels in the trilogy, but I can't say I enjoyed Titus Groan.
DRFP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is quite heavily overwritten but I suppose that's the point - the prose reflects the sprawling, crazed nature of Gormenghast itself. Although a bit verbose at times I don't think that stops Titus Groan being readable. Personally, I found it much more enjoyable than many overly descriptive 19th century novels. Peake takes his time but he does fashion a fantastic, large than life set of characters. True, they're a little flat, as they're essentially caricatures, and it would be nice to see some added depth to them. But, again, it's sort of the point of the novel that these characters remain as they are. They're wonderfully vivid and I'm glad there's another two books in which to read about them.This novel and series definitely won't be for everyone, and don't expect much (if anything IMO) in the way of "fantasy", but it's a very good read if you've got some patience.
PaulMysterioso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first book in Mervyn Peake's amazing Gormenghast trilogy finds young Titus Groan, heir to the mysterious Gormenghast Castle, coming under the influence of the villainous kitchen slavey Steerpike.
Darla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
OMG. This was completely different from my usual reading, and was one of those rare serendipitous finds. Nobody recommended it, I just picked it up to fill out my 3/$1 stack at the flea market. It's a slow-moving, lazy book. Over 500 pages, and dense prose at that, so it took me nearly 3 days to read. But the words...! You absolutely cannot rush this book. It's like the chocolate mousse of words, and not that sickeningly sweet Jello-pudding-like ersatz mousse with so little chocolate you might as well be eating sweetened cream, either. These words are rich and delicious, and you roll them around on your tongue, savoring the flavor. Not all that filling, but damn, it tastes so good you don't care. :) He uses big fat meaning-rich words, and never uses one word when three will do. Most writers I'd have been skimming by page 3. It takes some doing to make me enjoy slow, wordy prose.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poetic writing that conjures up a gothic world of bizarre characters. Beautifully complemented by the author's line drawings. Tried it because it is purportedly one of Sting's favorites. Was very glad I did.
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