If you’re looking to expand your reading horizons, look no further! William Sandbach gives us an introduction to the work of Mervyn Peake…
For anyone who enjoyed the ‘Harry Potter’ series or who gets a thrill from diving in to a fantastical yet brilliantly detailed fiction, then Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ Trilogy is a treat perfect for you. ‘Gormenghast’ is a mythical kingdom rule over by the intensely gothic, autocratic castle of the same name. It features superbly defined individuals who rival some of Dickens’ most distinctive characters in terms of their grotesque realism and simultaneously their undeniable absurdity. From the indomitable Steerpike to the Heroic Titus, Mervyn Peake successfully fashioned the characters of a beautifully crafted soap opera within the setting of a castle- thus creating intrigue and adventure (think of ‘Game of Thrones’ with additional bizarreness).
The ‘Gormenghast’ Trilogy is intensely vivid and this is partly due to the author’s ability to create sublime metaphors and similes which genuinely wow the reader with their freshness. Peake’s originality in his ideas might well stem from his upbringing in China which allowed him to mix cultures of the Orient with Western ideas of class and relationships. On top of this, the illness of his later years meant that, in the final novel of the trilogy, he generates a story of profound emotional and physical suffering and a bitter-sweet analysis of life and its journeys as a whole.
On top of its imagery and characterisation, Peake’s work is distinctive due to the haunting images accompanying the text. These drawing’s, of Peake’s own making, add an additional layer of intensity to the already rich panoply present in the texts and compete with Quentin Blake or John Tenniel in terms of their vibrancy and power.
To conclude, if you enjoy really delving into a fantasy and fully immersing in characters and setting then read the ‘Gormenghast’ Trilogy. You won’t regret it!
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