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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.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
I read the Gormenghast books as a teen and loved them. It's only now that I re-read them and really wonder what substances Peake was taking at the time!
Jan. 13th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
It is indeed "odd that the first volume of the trilogy is actually the one in which Titus figures least, though it bears his name."

The first two books should have swapped titles.

Jan. 13th, 2011 07:50 am (UTC)
Re: Titles
Which Andrew?
Jan. 15th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Titles
Andrew (@changingway.org) Watson. We've exchanged a few emails and comments on sff over the last few years.
Jan. 15th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Titles
Ah, of course. I was puzzled cos I thought you had an LJ id, so had ruled you out.
Jan. 13th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Titles
Titus in the first book is a McGuffin, like the Maltese Falcon in The Maltese Falcon :-)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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