Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

January Books 7) Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

The second book of the famous trilogy, in which the evil Steerpike's plans to dominate Gormenghast Castle are resolved in vicious single combat with Titus Groan, the 77th earl. When I first read this, at least a quarter of a century ago, the two scenes that really stuck in my mind were the grotesque deaths of Deadyawn the headmaster, killed in a bizarre incident where his wheelchair intersects with a deadly schoolboy game, and of the twin aunts of Titus and Fuchsia, locked away by Steerpike to die in isolation. I was surprised on rereading by quite how early in the book both events come. For the rest of it, Peake's obsession with disability as a marker for moral iniquity is rather dubious (the 'Thing', an unspeaking girl who represents freedom, is the acme of physical and spiritual perfection, while Barquentine, Deadyawn and indeed Steerpike are mutilated and evil). But it is a gloriously baroque description of life in a very peculiar place, and it gets pretty intense in the final chapters, when the castle is flooded and the Countess and Titus stalk Steerpike through the rising waters.

As with the previous volume, and for the same reasons, a Bechdel technical pass; Fuchsia talks to her nanny again, and the demented twins burble at each other, without men necessarily being mentioned. They are all dead by the end of the book.

Note on the first book, revisited: It's slightly odd that the first volume of the trilogy is actually the one in which Titus figures least, though it bears his name.
Tags: bechdel pass, bookblog 2011, rereads, writer: mervyn peake
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