Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Titus Groan is the Seventy Seventh Earl of Gormenghast in waiting and his birth begins this story and that of his rather eccentric family, their servants and the kingdom of Gormenghast itself. The story covers the first two years of Titus’ young life, from birth to his investiture as the seventy-seventh Earl and everything that happens in the Kingdom of Gormenghast during this time. The events, which lead up to the ‘Earling’ of little Titus, involve treachery, greed, murder, madness and revenge. There are also touches of real affection and lots of subtle humour.
The beginning of the book certainly grabs your attention as the story begins outside the walls of Gormenghast Castle with the dwellers and draws you in with the birth of Titus to his most unconventional mother, the Countess Gertrude. The story flows well with the help of characters such as Flay who almost acts as unwitting guide to the reader around the castle and the other players in this tale.
The main protagonists in the story are the Groan family; Lady Fuchsia, Titus’ older sister, Lord Sepulchrave, the seventy-sixth and current Earl and the Countess. Their dysfunctional relationship with one another translates through their relationship with their servants and subjects. Central to events is Steerpike, a very bright and opportunistic kitchen porter looking for a way out and seeing the insecurities and mistrust within the royal household ripe for exploitation, not least through Sepulchrave’s twin sisters Cora and Clara who are constantly looking for ways to unseat their sister-in-law and bring their own profiles to the fore. He is also intrigued with Lady Fuchsia who whilst drawn to him also is deeply suspicious of him.
“Isn’t he sweet, oh isn’t he the sweetest drop of sugar that ever was?” said Mrs Slagg.
“Who?” shouted the Countess so loudly that a string of tallow wavered in the shifting light.
The baby awoke at the sound and moaned, and Nannie Slagg retreated.
“His little lordship”, she whimpered weakly, “his pretty little lordship”.
“Slagg”, said the Countess, “go away! I would like to see the boy when he is six. Find a wet nurse from the Outer Dwellings. Make him green dresses from the velvet curtains. Take this gold ring of mine. Fix a chain to it. Let him wear it around his wry little neck. Call him Titus. Go away and leave the door six inches open.”
From: A Gold Ring For Titus: Titus Groan
The Character of Lady Fuchsia appears to be the one innocent; Titus being unaware of anything happening around him and being as yet unable to interact with any of the unfolding events, she seems torn between her status of royal of Gormenghast and being a normal teenage girl looking for her parents love and attention. Her main confidant is Doctor Prunesquallor, the Royal Physician, who seems to be the only person in her small and fettered world that seems to truly care about Fuchsia and her welfare.
The book is written in the third person, which allows the characters and events unfold simultaneously. The land of Gormenghast is described in enough detail for you to realise that this is a land unlike any other, especially Gormenghast castle and certainly adds quirkiness to an already unusual tale. My favourite parts of the book are when you begin to see Steerpike’s dark side and how he skilfully plots his next move like a chess game. I also very much enjoyed the sub plot involving Sepulchrave’s manservant Flay and the chef Swelter.
Deliciously dark, Titus Groan is the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy so it is to be expected that towards the end of the story new characters are introduced and new plots begin whilst old ones are left resolved. This certainly gives an air of ‘cliff hanger’ to the final chapter and I am impatiently looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
This Titus Groan book review was written by Floresiensis
All reviews for: The Gormenghast Trilogy
Have you read Titus Groan?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Titus Groan reader reviews
Dalei from Spain
The best thing I have ever read. Absolutely beautiful and magnificent; a masterpiece. The book itself is a piece of art.
David from Ireland
These novels aren't easy reads, but they are works of genius. The prose is hauntingly beautiful, the characters are wonderfully imagined but it's the location that is this trilogy's crowning glory. Weighed down by tradition and ritual, Gormenghast shapes all those who grow up in its shadow. While this weightiness makes the first read difficult, the vivid images that remain in the memory make perserverence worthwhile. In my mind it deserves to be ranked among the top 3 fantasy books, perhaps as the greatest.
Stick from upstate NY from Oneonta
This is the absolute worst in this list, possibly excepting Shardik (not on list). Struggled to finish 1st, made thru 1/3 next and gave up. Horrible. Anyone read E.R. Eddison "The Worm Ouroboros" and notice similarity to WoT?
Sharon from US
Revolutionary. World of series falls apart like a house of cards--seminal sensibility for modern sci-fi fantasy and I'd put in top 20.
Robert from Ashburton
They are well written and very good books.
Paul from Australia
First started reading approx 30 years ago. Since then have attempted to read it about 3 times yet have never finished it. It is a tough read... slow and ponderous come to mind. Descriptive and dark. 6/10 for what I've managed to read...
8/10 from 7 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Machine Stops
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are...
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Handsome Dorian Gray has found the secret of eternal youth. As those around him age, Gray remains young and beautiful. Knowing his actions have no consequences he lives a w...
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson
Murder and monstrosity on the streets of Victorian London. Nineteenth century London can be a very dangerous place. Beneath the prim and proper morals of Victorian society ...
The Hound of the D'Urbervilles
Imagine the twisted evil twins of Holmes and Watson and you have the dangerous duo of Professor James Moriarty – wily, snake-like, fiercely intelligent, terrifyingly ...
A misguided scientist seeks to instill life in a creature he has assembled from the bodies of the dead....
This Dark Endeavour
In this prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor's tw...
When We Were Animals
A small, quiet Midwestern town, unremarkable save for one fact: when the local teenagers reach a certain age, they run wild. When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, ...
Golgotha Falls: Genesis
Golgotha Falls: A city of carnal nightmare and monstrous appetite, nowhere in all the worlds of empire will you find its equal. Forged from dark science and steeped in anci...
Never The Bride
Brenda has had a long and eventful life, and she has come to Whitby to run a B&B and enjoy some peace and quiet. She and her best friend Effie like nothing better than ...
Such Wicked Intent
When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never d...
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanitarium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled sw...
Ever since moving to Fairwick to take up a teaching post at the local college, Callie has been having vivid, erotic dreams about a man made out of moonlight and shadows. Dr...
Hide Me Among the Graves
London, 1862. A city of over three million souls, of stinking fog and dark, winding streets. Through these streets walks the poet Christina Rossetti, haunted and tormented ...
Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages - and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a gr...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...