Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

100 Books By 40: GORMENGHAST


Book: Gormenghast
Author: Mervyn Peake
Published: 1946-1959

The BBC has done it again. As indicated by the published range as opposed to a single year, this isn’t one book but three. The book that I got from the library is all three books in one. It is one thousand+ pages, and the type is obscenely small. Months of my life was spent with this book.

The book tells the story of a castle, and two generations of noblemen who rule it. At least that’s typically how these sorts of stories are arranged. The noblemen act on their domain. This book inverts that narrative such that the domain, the castle acts on its noblemen.

On the bright side, Mervyn Peake was primarily an illustrator. And his sense of the visual rings true in his writing. The mental imagery that this book evokes is a feast for the imagination. This stands as such a contrast in our CGI-ed existence; actual imagination shimmers from this books pages.

On the not so bright side, the plot of this book moves at a snail’s pace, which goes a long way in explaining why I was reading this for 8 months. The plot will sit idle for chapter after chapter, only to have several major twists happen in a four page chapter. It’s true that much of the preceding chapters are setting up context, but the visual imagery takes up a piece too. I would take issue with this as writing masturbation, but Peake seems to make settings characters that may also act on the plot.

The characters are so quirky. So very, very quirky. And yet when Peake drapes them in his macabre visual world. They seem completely at home, natural even.

Eight months is a long time to commit to anything. A word like entertaining simply doesn’t apply to a book like this. It’s a visual delicacy that’s to be savored, for perhaps eight months.

Picture of Gormenghast all three books in one

Just look at this monster. Granted, this is all three of the books in one. But really, BBC, time to change your best 100 books list to best 112 books.

Probably the right time for another update on where I am in my list.

Reading now:
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
**On The Road, Jack Kerouac (rereading for pleasure)

Finished reading:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson

Pending reading:
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

2 thoughts on “100 Books By 40: GORMENGHAST

  1. Yeah, a lot of the reviews on Gormenghast that I read did warn that the story drags and that there is just too much description. But it’s nice to know that this is a book meant to be savored. I think this will fall into the “maybe someday” category.

    • Yeah. That category is completely legit for this book. It was lovely and well written. But sometimes, you just don’t want to be reading something for 8 months.

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