Review of 'Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast'

Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast by Maeve Gilmore
4th book in the 'Gormenghast' series

titus_awakes.jpg I can't say I was a great fan of the last Gormenghast book written by Mervyn Peake, “Titus Alone” (see here for review) as it was really a book of self-discovery rather than a quirky bit of fantasy. I was hoping with this latest book written by Peake's widow Maeve Gilmore based on a “fragment” by Peake would perhaps go somewhere different. It doesn't and I found it a difficult slog even though it is not really all that long.

When we say “fragment” this is not an exaggeration with only a couple of pages written by Peake himself and not much more than chapter titles for the rest so we are really talking about a book written by Gilmore, not Peake at all. According to the various introductions Peake was intending the series to continue on and on with Titus' travels but this never happened so we can but catch a glimpse of what might have been in this new instalment.

In this fourth instalment we find Titus again wandering his world away from Gormenghast. In the cold, snowy mountains he is taken in by a kindly family and has an affair with a young woman who gives birth to his son. Finding himself ever called to wander, he leaves the mountains joined only by a dog (imaginatively called “Dog”) for companionship. At times he is taken in by the kindness of others, then by those who do not. He poses as a model for an eccentric artist and discovers the artist's even more eccentric wealthy patron. His wanderings are aimless as he travels and lives as fate dictates. Late in the book Titus stays briefly at a religious sanctuary before finally discovering a goal in his wanderings as he travels to the ocean.

As with most Peake the power in the writing is in the description rather than story and this is no exception. Gilmore's style is certainly reminiscent of Peake but it is most definitely not Peake at the same time. The richness of the world seems to be missing as does any real emotional attachment to anything that happens here.

Fans of Peake will likely be excited by this work but I can imagine their being quite disappointed having read it. The sparks of Peake give way to a story of mediocrity and depressing prose. A sad and empty way to end Peake's Gormenghast.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2017-02-25

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Vintage

Publication Date: 2011

ISBN: 9780099552765

Other reviewed books in the 'Gormenghast' series: