The Gormenghast Novels
The case of the missing plot
I would like to preface this review by stating my qualifications - I'm a reader. I read. A lot. And every genre you can imagine. I appreciate fine style, great imagination, tight plotting and thoughtful characterization. If you are a fan of Peake's
I would like to preface this review by stating my qualifications - I'm a reader. I read. A lot. And every genre you can imagine. I appreciate fine style, great imagination, tight plotting and thoughtful characterization. If you are a fan of Peake's (and mostly Peake's admirers will be the ones who ultimately buy this hefty tome), then you are already predisposed to appreciate his style and his world making for the sake of world making. This review is specifically addressed to the readers unfamiliar with the author. To you, therefore, you have been advised.
That being said, I really loathe the Gormenghast novels. I went into it with an open mind - sure, it's not a traditionalist's fantasy novel and it really should not be labeled as such. It's a detailed grotesquerie of the minute day to day existence of a fantasy realm - with very little to offer in the way of plot. (Oh dear, I'm one of those dreadfully vulgar people who favor plots.) To say that the story limps along is to it a grave injustice - it is almost comatose. There is a great deal of build up, a plethora of in-depth characterization of characters a reader is hard-pressed to find the intellectual or emotional capital to invest, then very little payoff.
For anyone who mentally flinched when George R.R. Martin took upon himself to describe yet another house's heraldry or for whom Hugo's meandering side trip into the wherefores of Waterloo caused a sigh, this is not the novel for you.
The pros, as with the cons, of this work are all tied to the author himself. Simply put, he is a remarkable writer with an artist's eye and a poet's tongue. His prose is rich and beautifully rendered. He has an amazing ability to transport the reader into his darkly beautiful world. If you like art for art's sake and appreciate the delectation of a prose orgy, then this is for you. The characters, imaginative and full-blooded, are not designed to evoke a sympathetic reaction in the reader. They are creations, they are wonders, but they are not really ones which call forth a visceral, emotional reaction within the reader.
Reviews are merely opinions. If you disagree with mine, you have different expectations from literature than I have and I appreciate that. (Vive la différence, right?) There's nothing overtly wrong with Peake's work, and chacun a son goût.