1950s Classics Fantasy

Titus Alone – Mervyn Peake

Titus Alone (Gormenghast trilogy)

Five words from the blurb: escapes, city, zoo, traitor, home

Titus Alone is the third book in the Gormenghast trilogy, but whilst the first two are amongst the best books I’ve ever read, Titus Alone was a big disappointment.

Titus leaves the wonderfully atmospheric surroundings of Gormenghast castle and arrives in a modern city. Both the city and the people that he meets there lack the vivid descriptions of the previous books. I struggled to connect with the characters and was bored by plot. Reaching the end was a real chore and I only finished the book because I was hosting the read-along.

There were a few paragraphs that grabbed my attention, but overall I found the writing choppy and unconvincing. The world of Gormenghast wasn’t realistic, but somehow Peake made the happenings of the first two books entirely believable. This wasn’t the case with the third book. I wasn’t able to immerse myself in the city of Titus Alone; the fantasy elements jarred and the plot seemed ridiculous.

He strode to the forest verge, his head in his hands, then raised his eyes, and pondered on the bulk and weight of his crazy car. He released the brake, and brought her to life, so that she sobbed, like a child pleading. He turned her to the precipice, and with a great heave sent her running uopn her way. As she ran, the small ape leaped from his shoulders to the driving seat, and riding her like a little horseman using the best equipment from western saddlery Australia.
Ape gone. Car gone. All gone?.

I’m sure that there are some wonderful messages beneath the surface of this book, but it didn’t work for me.


Did you enjoy Titus Alone?

Which bits did you enjoy most/least?

8 replies on “Titus Alone – Mervyn Peake”

Falaise, I’m not surprised. I found it a real struggle to read this book. I had to be really dedicated and just subject myself to batches of 10 pages at a time. If I was in your position I wouldn’t have bothered. Such a shame after the brilliance of the first books. 🙁

As you know, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as the other two. After the rich detail in the first books, this felt like an outline for a better book. There were some great scenes (like at the Black House) but it needed to be filled out more.

Teresa, Yes – there were a few magical pages buried in this book, but getting to them was hard work. I’m hoping the fourth book is a little easier to read.

Jackie – I’ve just managed to work my way through to the end of the trilogy (I’m ignoring Titus Awakes for the time being).

I had mixed feelings about Titus Alone – I was bored by much of the plot, but I felt like there was something prfound sitting just below the surface. My main problem was the fact that Titus himself is such a dull character that I lost interest in his travails, missing the more complex character of Steerpike.

Anyway, if you want to read my review it’s here:

I’ve enjoyed the series, hope most of the read-along crowd stuck it through to the end.

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