Titus Groan

Mervyn Peake
Titus Groan Cover

Titus Groan

Lady Ardour

In his first book, Titus Groan, of the trilogy of Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake introduces us to the world of Gormenghast, a rumbling down secluded castle, on the edge of the earth cut off from reality. Gormenghast is a place of traditions, rituals, and repetition. It is a castle whose dynamic is to constantly look back to the history of its past and embrace it. The characters of Gormenghast are moulded from the very stone the castle was built from, they are one breathing entity. They live non-lives, every day repeats itself. The world in which they liveis dead, the winding corridors of the castle are dead, the stifling air that they breathe is dead and the character's souls are dead. However, little do the inhabitants know that all is about to change with the birth of Titus Groan, heir to the Gormenghast throne.

This story has a Once Upon A Time feel to it, set in a bizarre place full of unfathomable strange characters and ludicrous traditions. Reality is certainly not the core of this book and these traditions have little reasoning behind them. The novel resembles something close to the middle ages, there seems to be few rules and to act on impulse is what is done, although in this dead world impulses are few. This book emerged after the war in 1946, and unlike the other books which appeared at the same time it does not have the same approach of many of these texts. It is not a book about learning from mistakes and moving on. Instead it celebrates violence acts. The castle survives on tradition, and rituals which have been initiated from the very first earl of Gormenghast.

Mervyn Peak is essentially describing an unchanging world, where nothing out of the ordinary ever comes to play. The language in the book evokes a feeling of lethargy, stillness and non-life. Yes it is flowery, ever so poetic and beautiful at times, but its description causes the book to move slowly, a technique Peake uses to his benefit. At times I found it hard going and I would put it away, intending not to continue reading but the book always pulled me back in, its descriptions ticking over in my mind and its strange characters haunting my memory.

I found the characters of Gormenghast very fitting to their surroundings, mirroring the qualities of real people but ghastly over exaggerated. The sisters twins for example are whimsical characters, if you placed them in the real world we live today they would simply belong in an asylum. Every character in this story is different and has its unique set of traits yet they are all connected to each other, Titus groan and the castle itself. Everyone's actions have consequences. Personally my favourite character has to be Steerpike, a character largely influences from World War II. A radical leader, no doubt who uses people to get to the top. He can be compared to Stalin, the leader of Russia at the time telling people "Equality is a great thing, Equality is everything".

The ending has left the story wide open for the second third of this trilogy and I am looking forward to getting my hands on it and seeing what happens next to this new Gormenghast that has begun to change from Titus Groan's appearance.