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Titus Groan

Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake Dear book,

I am breaking up with you. It is not me, it is you. It is not you, it is me; others think you are really cute. I thought you were more romantic and mysterious. I got bored with you, but this is really just me. There were moments I was really happy and excited with you, even if they were few and between. Unfortunately these moments came too late in our relationships. You are a good guy and I hope you will find happiness in your life. Please do not invite me to a date: I am washing my hair tonight. And tomorrow. And every other night.

This first paragraph is exactly blow-by-blow description of my impressions about this novel. Let me retell it in different words.

I did not like the book much. It was really just me as a lot of people consider it very original and classic of genre. From its descriptions I expected something different; I thought it would be a very tale with lots of atmosphere of a dark castle with gloomy people living in it. Instead I got a tale of really unexciting bland people going through pointless rituals. There was a villain who manipulated events and people into doing his bidding in his quest for more power; the guy brought some excitement to the story, but there were two problems with it. He started acting in the second half of the book which made the first part boring; he managed to make people to do his bidding not because he was an evil mastermind, but for the simple reason that the said people had an IQ in single digits range.

This by the way is all I can say about the plot - nothing else happened; almost nothing to be exact. A male heir is born in castle Gormenghast : seventy seventh in long line of Earls. Most of the events are centered on him, but he is off-screen 99% of the time.

The author was a professional illustrator and it clearly shows in his writing.
His descriptions of places, most notably the castle itself are excellent and with the quality rarely seen in literature. The plot however is not the strongest point and neither are the characters. The pretty descriptions alone could not carry the book for me and it became boring fairly fast.

After finishing the book I was still curious enough to read the synopsis of the second installment on Wikipedia. It left me cold. I read the synopsis of the last book. At this point I was glad I stopped reading it. The only justification for it was the fact that the author wrote it while being terminally ill. He did not exactly finish it and the editor had to do a lot of work assembling written notes and leaving big chunks out. This is a big excuse, so I will not call it bad names which I would do otherwise without hesitation.

What is my final verdict? If you are really curious to see what the fuss is about read the first book. If you really like it proceed to the second one. Avoid the last one as a plague in any case. My rating is 2.5 stars rounded up out of my respect for its classic status.