Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake is a unique book. It is an incomparable masterpiece by one of the most amazing and interesting authors I have ever had the chance to read. And I say “amazing” with the true meaning of the word as this is a book that will amaze you constantly while reading it. See, Peake’s writing is not like anything one might have read. I’m can safely say that Peake must have been a very bold and perceptive man. He sees things that are obvious but always stay out of sight, he explores thoughts that everybody has but nobody admits or realizes. But I think I’m getting carried away, let’s do this in my usual organized way.Characters:
To say that Peake’s characters are simply real-like and multidimensional is to underestimate him. To mention that his characters are different, strange and interesting is just scratching the surface. His characters truly live, they are everywhere and nowhere. Everywhere because the reader understands them so well, feels their every thought and sensation in a way. They are so unique and real that it feels as if you’ve known them forever. But they are also nowhere, as they so strange and unique that one can not imagine them existing outside of the encompassing setting of Gormenghast, There can not really be copies anywhere.
Even through the third-person perspective, Peake presents them in a very personal level. The reader can feel what they feel, know what they perceive and read most of their thoughts. This very subjective and personal way of coming in contact with each character makes each one of them a protagonist. Nobody is just good or bad, there’s no such thing as black and white in Gormenghast. Each reader loves and hates everybody on various degrees according to their own psyche.Plot:
To actually try to create a paragraph talking about plot in a Mervyn Peake book feels like an exercise in futility, not to say a downright silly notion. This book is about progression & turmoil but mostly it’s about change; change in all ways and levels imaginable. In this book, everything changes, and I’m not talking just about the characters.Pacing:
As with Peake’s first book, pacing here is also slow. Actually it’s very slow, sometimes sluggishly slow but in an unhurried and deliberate way. But this is exactly what Peake is. There’s no way that this book would be what it is if it was a fast page-turner. Everything needs time here: the reader must take time to absorb the magic and all the details from Peake’s wonderful writing, events need time to happen, characters need time to change, the whole Gormenghast needs time to adjust and evolve. This is not a book for fast consumption and quick satisfaction. This is a grand and exquisite gourmet that must be savored slowly and carefully lest one miss something great!Writing:
Let me say that upfront. There’s no writer like Mervyn Peake and you haven’t read anything like it. Peake, while verbose and eloquent, writes with clarity and lucidity, with an obvious purpose and aim, with each word flowing effortlessly into sentences and then into paragraphs that reading this book is like magic. He describes things that are in front of our eyes but we never actually see, he dares dive deep into the human psyche, into feelings we know exist but we avoid facing and brings them up in front of our eyes. Exactly like an experienced photographer who can see things with a different eye and then present that to us in a way we’ve never seen it before. Or like a skilled psychologist who knows which questions to ask to make you realize things about yourself you always knew were there but you never recognized. Well, this is exactly how Peake writes.
But enough of my own words, let me give you some quotes! :)
To say that the frozen silence contracted itself into a yet higher globe of ice were to under-rate the exquisite tension and to shroud it in words. The atmosphere had become a physical sensation. As when, before a masterpiece, the acid throat contracts, and words are millstones, so when the supernaturally outlandish happens and a masterpiece is launched through the medium of human gesture, then all human volition is withered at the source and the heart of action stops beating.
Such a moment was this. Irma, a stalagmite of crimson stone, knew, for all the riot of her veins that a page had turned over. At chapter forty? O no! At chapter one, for she had never lived before save in a pulseless preface.
How long did they remain thus? How many times had the earth moved round the sun? How many times had the great blue whales of the northern waters risen to spurt their fountains at the sky? How many reed-bucks had fallen to the claws of how many leopards, while that sublime unit of two-figure statuary remained motionless? It is fruitless to ask. The clocks of the world stood still or should have done.
Indeed he had worn that piece of furniture - or symbol of bone-laziness - into such a shape as made the descent of any other body than his own into that crater of undulating horsehair a hazardous enterprise
Meanwhile Bellgrove had been savouring love's rare aperitif, the ageless language of the eyes.
Noon, ripe as thunder and silent as thought, had fled unfingered.
He knew that he was caught up in one of those stretches of time when for anything to happen normally would be abnormal. The dawn was too tense and highly charged for any common happening to survive.
He had emptied the bright goblet of romance; at a single gulp he had emptied it. The glass of it lay scattered on the floor.
His mother stood before him like a monument. He saw her great outline through the blur of his weakness and his passion. She made no movement at all.
Ok I will stop now, I have pages of these quotes and they lose their magic when read out of context. But they are so powerful, oh some of them they truly are!Conclusion:
There’s not much more to say at this point. This is not an easy book to read, and I’m afraid many might be left disappointed. But to those who read this with an open mind and do so properly so that they can really enjoy it for what it is, it will be a exceptional experience. Ultimately, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast is a unique book, a wonderful book, a celebration to writing and literature! Read it!5 stars out of 5 !!