Enjoying audiobooks daily!
Part 1 really set the story up nicely. I loved the characters, weird as they are, and the narrator was perfect with a range of voices for each character. I would refer this to anyone who loves a good book along the lines of a cross between dark gothic and poetic fantasy.
This one is tricky. I like it, I do. I couldn't tell you what actually happens in the story because I am still not sure. The language is glorious. If you enjoyed the language for its own sake in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I bet you would like the language in this.
In a fit of enthusiasm for that very idea I tried listening to The Three Musketeers
and Ivanhoe. Not so much, the language in those didn't draw me in. It was too stiff and put me off.
The problem here, and it IS a problem for me... super lengthy descriptions of every little thing, every thought, every expression, every everything, goes on and on and on and on. You can listen for two hours and its still the same scene in which nothing of note has happened. The rub is, I keep thinking maybe something did happen and I missed it because I was happily lost in some enchanting phrase. It is DELIGHTFULLY irritating. So I will keep playing it over and over until I am sure I have it. Even if it turns out I hate the story I will have gotten more than my money's worth.
Simon Vance is always perfect. He is the only actor of many books who has never ever let me down.
There are two abridged versions of "Titus Groan," but get the unabridged --- because the words are the point, not the plot. There is a clear plot, and the action is also clear. But it's the dark, seductive, carefully mined and honed words that matter. Robert Whitfield is a brilliant reader, and like the best readers he plainly actually understands this book better than I did the first time I read it, and can communicate that understanding. "Titus Groan" is a parody, harsher than Dickens, perhaps Thackerian would be fair. The parody attacks useless, empty traditions of class-based aristocracy, and on its own terms, not the terms of any sort of from-below social revolution such as communism. The parody is funny, incredibly: wait for the climax at the end when the baby Titus goes through the ceremony of "earling" and casually disposes of all the elaborate symbols of his office.
The hero, Steerpike, is an anti-hero, even a villain. But that's nothing: all the characters, 100%, are anti-characters. There is not a straight type that we expect among them. The doctor may be the only one with a good character, and possibly Mrs. Slag and Fuchia the sister, but all of them are not merely eccentrics, they are grotesques. I don't see how anyone could have done Prunesquallor the doctor better than the reader Whitfield read him. That was a difficult challenge for an actor-reader, but he achieved it, delightfully.
The action and the plot are vivid and murderous and also grotesque. The famous setting, the many-storied stone castle that goes on for miles and miles and miles as its own self-contained world, is so original that it has been used by others: perhaps by C.S. Lewis in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," as the professor's house, and certainly by Tad Williams in his brilliant "Otherland." as one of the virtual sci-fi worlds the characters find themselves inside.
This book is worth reading before you hear it. Note the carefully ominous word choice: the words are invariably the ones that would unsettle us. On the next order of composition, the phrases are dire even when their individual words are blameless. I assume Peake was a fan of Lovecraft, but this is not an exercise in the supernatural or in horror from the outside. Gormenghast Castle is its own world and if there is horror, no one there notices, because that is how they expect to live. I highly recommend this brilliant book with Whitfield's illuminating reading.
I first read this work by Mervyn Peake many years ago, and it (together with the other two volumes of the Gormenghast trilogy) made a lasting impression. The trilogy is strongly influenced by the darker elements of Dickens, Kafka, Lewis Carroll and the Brothers Grimm. It is tempting to mention Tolkien and C S Lewis as well, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia series both commenced publication a few years after Titus Groan, although the publication of volumes in the three series then overlapped. The period from 1946 to 1959 was certainly an extraordinarily productive period for the genre. The Gormenghast books are illustrated by the author. These drawings are unavoidably missing from the audio version, which is a pity, as they are superb and do much to establish the heavy atmosphere of the story. Robert Whitfield as narrator does a good job.
As you can probably tell from the other reviews, people seem to love or hate this book and Peake's language style.
It is *VERY* wordy and long winded and barely makes any headway in plot. None of the characters are nice/friendly/happy and quite a few of them are nasty or vapid. Only the castle setting seems to place it in the fantasy genre, and it's a depressing setting filled with gloom and pointless ritual.
While I will not be purchasing any of the sequels, I can see how the wonderfully flowery language would be a plus for those who enjoy this kind of period piece. However, I found the constant repeated lines annoying, though I couldn't tell if they were part of the original text or merely a production problem.
In summary, I highly suggest potential listeners to read a few pages in a bookstore or library to determine if this literary style is for you. It's only similarity to Lord of the Rings is length.
One of the major problems that the fantasy and science fiction genres can face is the author falling in love with the world they are creating to the exclusion of character development. Titus Groan is perhaps the worst example I’ve yet seen of this. It’s as though Peake sat down, wrote a short story, and then amused himself for the next two years by attempting to use every synonym in the thesaurus for every verb or adjective in his pitiful plot (“Not enough room in this sentence? I’ll just add eleven more.”).
I’ve given this monstrosity 4 and a half hours to pull it together (I’ve just begun chapter 19) and NOTHING of note has happened yet. Peake’s writing style is frankly painful, providing a plodding description of four or more paragraphs to state that the sky is blue. His story telling is erratic, his timelines and characters confused, and, as of the point of this writing, has provided me with approximately four pages of character information.
The narrator is decent. Though his voice acting appears moderate in this reading, consider what the poor man has to work with: a series of Dorian Gray characters babbling (often incoherently) about nothing. Each character appears to be mentally challenged, and you as the reader are invited to partake of their nonsensical ramblings.
If you’re a description fanatic (not lover, you need to be a FANATIC for this one), you MAY find something appealing in this drivel. If you’re looking for engaging, entertaining fantasy with a PLOT, go elsewhere. This book is utter tripe.
This was the first audiobook I simply could not finish. The ?Lord of the Rings? hook in the description pulled me in, but the story bored me to tears.
Early in my audible membership i bought this book (as well as Gormenghast and Titus Alone) and i was hooked. Mervyn Peake was an amazing writer and the details of the novels kept me attentive thru all 45 hours of them. Robert Whitfield is a great reader and i've since purchased other books from audible just because he was the reader.
After listening to the entire unabridged trilogy, I strongly recommend the abridged version. Although the story line wasn’t bad the author spent WAY TOO MUCH time developing minor characters. It seemed that he constantly went off on tangents that in the end had almost nothing to do with developing the main story line. He also would have made my English literature teach proud with his excessive use of adjectives. It often took 10 sentences to say what could have been said in 10 words.
If you know what you're getting into, this isn't that bad of a novel. It is paced EXTREMELY slowly - the language evokes a time that we have long rushed past. However, I just couldn't stand the shoddy production values. There are numerous 'flashbacks' where the reader/editor repeats the last sentence or paragraph. It almost seems like every break the reader took shows up in this doubling. This was very irksome. It throws off any sense of pace that you were developing while listening. I would only recommend this to fans of period-pieces or die-hard fantasy readers with an urge for something old-fashioned - die-hard enough to ignore the annoying editing.