Titus Groan is the name of the first novel in the series and its namesake character, although Peake measured out a long list of fascinating characters in the trilogy. While still a child, Titus succeeds to his rightful place on the throne of Gormenghast by becoming its 77th earl. Backstabbing and outright skullduggery ensue from the vivid characters scampering about Castle Gormenghast. The first novel was met with wide acclaim at its release.
Gormenghast is the second book in the fantastic Gormenghast trilogy and my favorite of the three. In it, Mervyn Peake has managed to make the sprawling, never ending castle of gray and stone, one of the main characters. Yes, the moldering castle is most certainly a character. It is as large as a city and reminds one of Edgar Allan Poe's The Doomed City. Death is everywhere, lurking in dark corners and worn stairs and crumbling archways. Furtive and building horror sans blood and guts. As with the first book in the trilogy, Peake doesn't let up and cements his trilogy as one of the great Gothic texts of the twentieth century.
The final book in the trilogy was left uncompleted by Peake at his untimely death. As a result, it is disjointed and pales in comparison to the first two novels. In it Titus Groan meets characters outside of Ghormenghast in a rather modern age. For me, this was an unwelcome turn of events. I wanted Gormenghast to exist in its own time and space.
Other artists have paid homage to the books. Robert Smith and his band The Cure were heavily influenced by Gormenghast. "All Cats are Grey," "The Drowning Man," "Forever," and "In Your House" draw on Gormenghast and the ghastly doings that happen within it ever moldering walls. New Zealand progressive band Split Enz wrote "Titus" and "Stranger than Fiction" in homage to the series.
The songs are a must listen and the series is a must read!
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