Dizzy Heights

Thursday January 25, 2007 in books read 2007 | mervyn peake

‘Lady Fuchsia! May I join you?’
Behind him she saw something which by contrast with the alien, incalculable figure before her, was close and real. It was something which she understood, something which she could never do without, for it seemed as though it were her own self, her own body, at which she gazed and which lay so intimately upon the skyline. Gormenghast. The long, notched outline of her home. It was now his background. It was a screen of walls and towers pocked with windows. He stood against it, an intruder, imposing himself so vividly, so solidly, against her world, his head overtopping the loftiest of its towers.

Greed, ambition, the desire for self-advancement. Ultimately, evil. In Titus Groan, Steerpike appears to Lady Fuchsia to be larger than the vast castle of Gormenghast, overpowering it and engulfing it, his ambition manifest.

A mere worker in the castle’s kitchen, Steerpike has wormed his way up through the ranks of Gormenghast. Escaping from the sinister servant Flay, he literally climbs his way up to more satisfying heights of the castle and finds himself in Fuchsia’s beloved attic by scaling the ivy growing against a wall. A vertical drop of several hundred feet doesn’t sway him. From there he befriends the eccentric Doctor Prunesquallor, through him the weird twin sisters of Lord Groan himself. And then he hatches his devilish and Machiavellian plot…

Titus Groan isn’t the fantastic tale I’d anticipated. Greed, ambition, self-advancement. We see it every day.

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