In this third volume, Titus turns against the iron discipline of Gormenghast's ritual and sets forth on an uncertain quest - to find himself. His pilgrimage leads to encounters with mysteriously omnipotent, ruthless police, and a battle to the death with Veil, a gaunt ogre with a body like whips and a face that moves "like the shiftings of the gray slime of the pit". Titus, in his quest for independence from his legacy, despite the fantastical trappings of his odyssey, captures successfully the humanistic conception of contemporary man.
©1967, 1968 Mervyn Peake; (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks
"[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)
The final book in the Gormenghast Trilogy, considered by many to be one of the greatest fantasy series ever written, right up there with Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. Mr. Peak died before completing his last book, and Titus Alone was compiled after his death from his notes. The book is weaker than the first two installments for that reason. But the sheer brilliance of the prose makes it a pleasure to listen to.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Is Gormenghast only the delusion of a ???dotty??? young man? It appears in no atlas and belongs to a past age of lineage, lords, and castles. After his birth in the vast castle in Titus Groan (1946), the first novel in Mervyn Peake???s trilogy, and after his desertion of it in Gormenghast (1950), the second novel, in Titus Alone (1959/1992) young Titus finds himself lost in a modern world of cities, cars, airplanes, factories, concentration camps, detectives, and even sentient spy globes (and maybe even clones), ever pursued by mysterious identical twin men in tall helmets.
Titus Alone is a strange novel! Picaresque, allegorical, science fictional, and dream-like. It concerns Titus??? struggle to come to terms with Gormenghast, with his desertion and memories of it, with his tenuous hold on its reality. Forthright and self-centered, Titus moves through the modern world like an unstable Candide, not wanting to become tied down to places, friends, or lovers. Nevertheless, he builds relationships with various people, including the larger than life, rudder-nosed, free-spirited Muzzlehatch, the beautiful, ample, and kind Juno, his three beggar bodyguards from the Under-River (into which the failures of the world descend), and the exquisite and spoiled rich girl Cheeta, whose father is a scientist who has built a factory with identical faces in the windows and sounds like the smell of death.
Robert Whitfield (AKA Simon Vance) gives a stellar reading of Titus Alone. His voices for Muzzlehatch and the denizens of the Under-River are engaging and savory, and his reading of Titus??? delirious ravings (in which he channels the people from his past) is inspired. The only flaw is that his Cheeta sounds too weak and petulant and not malevolent enough.
The audiobook is the 1959 edition with 109 chapters, not the more recent and restored version from 1992 with 122. The added chapters develop Juno???s character, the factory, and the charade climax, but I think the original version of the audiobook is fine without them.
Titus Alone is half as long as the first two novels in the trilogy, has fewer detailed descriptions and shorter chapters, and feels less immersive, coherent, and polished. And I sympathize with readers who feel that, due to his declining health, Peake was not able to write a third novel to equal the first two in bizarre and compelling grandeur, and that it???s better just to read a duology and to ignore the third volume. However, readers who love the first two books will find flashes of their brilliance as well as new moods and modes in Titus Alone, and though it is not a masterpiece on their level, it is interesting and has unforgettable characters, scenes, and lines, for example, the absurd courtroom questioning of Titus about Gormenghast, the pleasurable early love between Titus and Juno, the horrible conversation between former prison camp guard Veil and former prisoner Black Rose, and the sad sunset clouds that look like silently roaring animals to Muzzlehatch.
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.
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