Thursday, August 28, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 36 -- Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast

by Maeve Gilmore and Mervyn Peake

Started: August 25
Finished: August 28

Notes: This book is the fourth in the legendary Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake. Sort of. Actually, Peake had only written a handful of notes for this book when he fell ill and passed away in the 1960s. During the '70s, his widow, Maeve Gilmore, took it upon herself to make use of his notes to complete the book. Unfortunately, though printed, the general Gormenghast fan base never became too aware of Titus Awakes, at least not until a few years ago when Peake's children re-discovered his notes and those of his wife. The novel was published again in 2011. Though it can be tedious reading, I thorougly enjoyed the first Gormenghast book, a little less the second book, and the third book ... well, I didn't care for it. To be honest, I don't have high hopes for this one, but perhaps I will be wrong.

Mini review: This is not for the light fantasy reader. Really, it's not for even hardcore fans of the epic. As with Peake's works, this is more literary than most fantasy literature, more so by far than even the likes of Tolkien or Lord Dunsany. The writing here is not as dense as Peake's, and has a little more of a lyrical turn to it. Gormenghast fans might enjoy this for a sense of completion, and those who like to read heavier literary works might enjoy the sense of being intentionally lost within the world that the Titus character thrives upon. For the most of this book, Titus continues his random wanderings as he has done since leaving Gormenghast, but the ending comes with change, and it comes rather abruptly. Did I like this? Yes and no. It's not exactly fun or exciting reading, but there is some interesting prose and situations, and here and there was a turn of phrase I enjoyed. Those seeking adventure would probably be served better elsewhere, but readers who enjoy language for itself and who like character studies could find this worth their while.

3 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Never read any of these. Always been leery

Ty Johnston said...

With good reason. I enjoyed the first two books, but they are not adventure reading.

If one has read Goldman's The Princess Bride, the narrator mentions he discovered when he was older that his grandfather had read to him only "the good parts" of the novel and had left out pages upon pages of boring description. The Gormenghast books are very much like that, though of course the boring parts are left in.

The Wasp said...

I really like the first two books. They're sort of like Dickens on acid or maybe crack.