Robert Whitfield brings this story to life. Peake's genius is the description of the eccentric; but his language can heavy and pace slow at times. Whitfield's reading more than makes up for this shortcoming, and completely kept my interest even when Peake's writing by itself may not have.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Gormenghast (1950), the second novel in Mervyn Peake???s classic fantasy trilogy, opens with seven-year-old Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Gormenghast, already conflicted by rebellious desires to be free from the meaningless ritual and dry duty of the castle and from his role as its figurehead. The novel depicts his maturing into a sensitive and self-aware young man scarred by violence, seasoned by loss, and attracted by the world outside. Into that plot Peake weaves the career of the amoral ex-kitchen boy Steerpike, scheming his way ever deeper into the heart of Gormenghast. And for comic relief, Peake spends (almost too) much time with Professor Bellgrove, his bachelor colleagues, and Irma Prunesquallor, who wants a husband.
There are many memorable set pieces in the novel, like the moment when Titus and his sister Fuchsia discover that they love each other, the ???Bachelorette??? soiree at the Prunesquallors, the demise of an anile headmaster, the game of marbles in the Lichen Fort, the tracking of a satanic outlaw, the aborted ceremony of the Bright Carvings, the encounter with the wild Thing in the forest cave, the Biblical flooding of the castle, and the schoolboy game featuring a classroom window 100 feet above the ground, a giant plane tree, a pair of polished floor boards, and a gauntlet of slingshots.
Reader Robert Whitfield???s narrator is clear, refined, and sympathetic, and his character voices varied and on target (especially Dr. Prunesquallor, Irma, Bellgrove, Barquentine, Steerpike, and Flay). But his Fuchsia needs more raw passion and less nasal whine and his Countess Gertrude more gravitas and less dowager quaver. And there is an odd glitch whereby about twenty times during the course of the book Whitfield???s sentences jarringly repeat.
Gormenghast resembles Titus Groan, the first novel in the trilogy. Both novels are set in a vividly realized castle world populated by grotesque denizens. Both intoxicate the reader with rich language, baroque detail, painterly description, and blended humor and pathos. Both leave images etched upon the mind???s eye. Both feature long passages of conversation or description punctuated by unpredictable scenes of suspenseful action. Both express themes about the primacy of passion and imagination over reason and calculation and the comforting and stultifying influence of tradition on human lives. Although both novels are ???fantasies of manners,??? however, Gormenghast is also a romantic comedy, a British school story, a gothic thriller, and a bildungsroman. And it highlights new themes: the conflict between duty and freedom and the transformations, wonders, and absurdities of love and aging.
Finally, Gormenghast, like Titus Groan, is a unique masterpiece that offers a satisfying conclusion to the story arc of the first two novels that perhaps renders the third book, Titus Alone, unnecessary.
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.
First audio book I have not finished, did not even make it 30 minutes. Must be for a paticular audience. Listen to a sample first if you can.