Friday, 8 October 2010
Titus Groan is the first book in the Gormenghast trilogy written in 1946.
Castle Gormenghast is an ancient gothic stronghold, vast in size yet slowly crumbling into disrepair after many centuries of neglect. The mighty castle is ruled by the eccentric Groan family; half-mad members of the aristocracy whose antics might be more in line with what you would expect inside a sanatorium. At the beginning of the book the 77th heir to the throne of Gormenghast has been born; Titus. Despite the title of the book Titus remains a baby throughout and plays no significant part in the events that unfold. Instead the story focusses on the rest of the Groan family, their servants and a boy named Steerpike; a seventeen year old Machiavellian kitchen boy full of ambition and desires for power. Through the cunning use of manipulation, deceit and arson Steerpike escapes from servitude and, with impressive speed, manages to squirm his way into the affections of the ruling caste of Gormenghast with terrible, far reaching consequences.
The story is a serious one but there is a good deal of humour to be found in the pages. The settings are atmospheric and frightening. However the characters are what really brought the story alive for me. I'm not sure any other book contains within its pages such a concentration of eccentric misfits. Bizarre but also interesting and satisfying. Alas despite the truly wonderful character development the story, for me, ultimately failed to live up to my expectations.
The book is too long and, to be blunt, not an awful lot happens for most of it. Too much time is spent setting the scene and too little is given to dialogue between the characters. It could have been a brilliant story if it had been 100 pages shorter and there was a little more excitement.
Final verdict 3/5