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Gormenghast: Volume 2 of the Gormenghast Trilogy | [Mervyn Peake]

Gormenghast: Volume 2 of the Gormenghast Trilogy

Enter the fantastical world of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy, one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. Novelist C.S. Lewis called Peake's books "actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience."
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Publisher's Summary

In Volume 2 of the classic Gormenghast Trilogy, a doomed lord, an emergent hero, and an array of bizarre creatures haunt the world of Gormenghast Castle. This trilogy, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reigns as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of everything is the 77th Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom.

In this second volume, Titus comes of age within the walls of Gormenghast Castle and discovers various family intrigues. His twin aunts, Cora and Clarice, have been imprisoned in their own apartments, believing that they alone among the castle inhabitants were free of a hideous disease referred to as "Weasel plague." Titus has discovered secret hiding places in abandoned parts of the castle from which he can watch and learn, unobserved: for he has been "exiled" to grow up with the common children until the age of 15. And so, not feeling connected to his future responsibilities, Titus drifts back and forth between the complicated social world he will grow up to govern, and a world of fantasy and daydream.

©2000 Mervyn Peake; (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"[Peake's books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience." (C.S. Lewis)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jefferson Fukuoka, Japan 07-27-12
    Jefferson Fukuoka, Japan 07-27-12 Member Since 2010

    I love listening to or reading books--especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, classics, & historical.

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    "A “Supernaturally Outlandish” Masterpiece"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Auckland, New Zealand 11-19-12
    Steven Auckland, New Zealand 11-19-12
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    "Dickens in our time"

    I don't think anyone gets closer to Dickens than Peake when it comes to characters. There is no one who can compare with the way he draws the weird and wonderful world of Gormenghast. His plot is a little thin, mostly, and he is incapable of increasing his pace - even when the tensions and action reaches "fever pitch" the events are captured in slow motion. This is not irritating, but rather amusing and it leaves one more time to wallow in the glorious, graphic, intricate and incomparable writing. This should be required reading for any aspirant author. I have also picked up a new favourite saying, thanks to Dr Prune-Squallor when he sees his rather desperate and sad sister toffed up for a social occasion "by all that convulsive ..." . Looking forward to the last in the series.
    The narrator is superb as usual. On a technical level the recording leaves much to be desired. There are several instances where a passage is repeated instead of being edited out - at one point it was about 3 minutes. There are also long silences. This points to a lack of attention to detail but not to the overall enjoyment of the masterpiece.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Steen 11-20-03
    Jane Steen 11-20-03 Member Since 2001
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    "Not just a book - an experience!"

    I was enthralled by this second book in the trilogy. A lot more happens in this book than in the first, Titus Groan, but the rich detail is still there. The amount of description in this book does not make it in any way boring, because the pace is varied in a masterful way - a long passage may culminate in a sudden moment of laugh-out-loud humor, or the death of a major character can occur in a couple of lines. The reading is beautifully done and the voices of the characters sound just right. I'm hooked.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elaine Oakton, VA, USA 02-09-10
    Elaine Oakton, VA, USA 02-09-10 Member Since 2002
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    "Love this audio book"

    I find Mervyn Peake a bit heavy to read in text form, but Robert Whitfield's crisp diction and superb pacing made this a really pleasant listening experience.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    beatrice El Cerrito, CA, United States 06-26-09
    beatrice El Cerrito, CA, United States 06-26-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Good Gormenghast"

    Peake has been compared to Dickens, but I think his fantastic world is more like what Lewis Carroll's Wonderland might have been like without the presence of the level-headed Alice. This narrator was not to my taste; his interpretation tended toward the burlesque, losing the delicacy of Peake's prose, which to me feels more elusive, --dreamlike or allegorical. The early bits with the professors I found rather tedious, but some of the later passages with the flooded castle were extraordinary. If you liked the first volume as an audiobook (narrator and all), I recommend the sequel. One caveat: the third book doesn't deserve inclusion in the trilogy--it is sadly incoherent--so when you're finished with this book, you've finished with Gormenghast. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 03-04-14
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Satisfying conclusion to the story in Titus Groan"

    The same reader, Robert Whitfield, did this unabridged Gormenghast as read the first volume, Titus Groan. His reading is brilliant, in my opinion: this is of course a very difficult book to read well, as it's experimental fiction on the order of Ulysses and it is a form of poetry in prose: note the very careful choice of every word, for the dire, the scary, the unsettling. The plot is vivid and full of action, but could be told in a third the words: but the words are the point. So enjoy them. This book is not about the plot, exciting though that is. It's not about the characters, fascinating though they are. It's about the second-by-second elaborate description of the experience.

    There is a production problem that did not occur in Titus Groan: I counted eleven times when the reader repeated whole sentences, having apparently stopped, taken a break, and then went on repeating from the top of the paragraph. Obviously the editor should have edited out the repeats!! Bad production not to bother. It should be done right and reissued. However, it's still a very good rendition and well worth hearing.

    The conclusion is highly satisfying and there is no need to go on to the post-mortem third volume cobbled together from notes on the author's desk. I would advise first reading the two works, then listening to them, and finally watching the excellent BBC movie starring John Rhys Meyer as Steerpike. It's a star-studded cast: you will be surprised at the important actors you recognize. They stay very close to the text, though it must have been hard to make, given the spectacular scenery and events.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerald SANTA CLARA, CA, United States 11-12-12
    Gerald SANTA CLARA, CA, United States 11-12-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A wonderful piece of literature."
    Where does Gormenghast rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Very good


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Gormenghast?

    The reader communicates the drama of the text


    Did Robert Whitfield do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    He did very well with various charactors


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amber Leavenworth, KS, United States 11-08-12
    Amber Leavenworth, KS, United States 11-08-12 Member Since 2005
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    "If I could choose less than one, I would"
    What would have made Gormenghast better?

    I have no clue.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Definitely NOT this.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Robert Whitfield?

    not sure


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Gormenghast?

    not sure


    Any additional comments?

    I despised this story, and will definitely not listen to this again. I'll also probably not listen to anything from this author or series again.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Landrum, SC, United States 09-24-12
    John Landrum, SC, United States 09-24-12 Member Since 2007
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    "An All Time Classic"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely have recommended all three of the trilogy. The reading is as good as it gets. The writing is the best in genre.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Gormenghast?

    The meeting between Titus and "the thing" in the cave perhaps but this is a series full of memorable moments.


    What does Robert Whitfield bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I think I would be so enamored by the descriptiveness that I might not let it flow like it does from Whitfield.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P&B St. Petersburg, FL USA 03-20-12
    P&B St. Petersburg, FL USA 03-20-12 Member Since 2007

    P&B

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    "A sensory immersion"
    If you could sum up Gormenghast in three words, what would they be?

    A sensory immersion


    What did you like best about this story?

    The vast wealth of detail.


    Have you listened to any of Robert Whitfield???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.N/A.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    A long, slow, quiet and thought-provoking submersion in a place that has a tinge of Doctor Caligari's Cabinet and yet is uniquely it's own universe.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 14 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Sara
    Llanwrtyd wells, United Kingdom
    1/22/10
    Overall
    "As brilliant as Volume 1."

    Another great, atmospheric, other-worldly Gormenghast book. It is a continuation of the story threads in the first book and as I suspect no-one will read this book without reading the first, I feel I can review this book by saying that if you enjoyed the strange characters, the dry, black humour and the evil machinations of Vol. 1 then you will definitely enjoy this book as it is as brilliant as the first outing. Excellently narrated.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Laura
    Horsham, United Kingdom
    9/23/11
    Overall
    "Excellent voices"

    I have really enjoyed listening the whole trilogy, not only for the story, but for all different voices the narrator uses. I particularly like the voices of Fuschia and the twins, the story is a little complicated in places, (particularly when I am listening to it whilst doing something else!) So the different voices really help to keep track of what's going on.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Melissa
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    9/28/13
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    "A Classic. Extra-ordinary and most wonderful."
    Would you listen to Gormenghast again? Why?

    Yes - I would listen again..almost on a looped tape. It is such beautiful language, transporting you to a world that is so vivid, so strange - yet mysteriously something or somewhere you almost recognise.
    The descriptions of the people, the castle - and then the utterly surprising eccentricity of the world of Gormenghast...it is hypnotically addictive.


    What other book might you compare Gormenghast to, and why?

    well I suppose the obvious superficial comparisons are Dickens and Tolkien - but actually I would only compare it to those if I was pushed. Some of the characters can be said to have a Dickensian flavour, and the concept of a mysterious world is Tolkienian...but there are no unknown 'creatures', no blatant 'magic'....that is what brings it so strangely into something one ALMOST recognises...in ones strangest of dreams.


    What about Robert Whitfield’s performance did you like?

    It was marvellous. Brilliant. He captured each character perfectly. I almost can't beleive I did not 'see' it all - he was so vivid in his reading


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Made me laugh at times, but not usually because it was ha-ha funny. More because of some line or characterisation that took me by surprise, or that was so peculiar and wonderful - so more of a gasp really.


    Any additional comments?

    A book that is unique, rare and wonderful. It transports you into another realm. I love it to bits.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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