The Matrix Refugee (matrixrefugee) wrote in gormenghastfans,
The Matrix Refugee

Book Review: "Titus Awakes"

Originally posted by matrixrefugee at Book Review: "Titus Awakes"
(Headspace!Titus: Why are you using *that* icon?
Ref: Because I really need to make one of you.)

So! as many of you know, one of my most anticipated book purchases this year was the "lost" Gormenghast book, "Titus Awakes", which Mervyn Peake's widow Maeve Gilmore completed, based on one completed chapter and some notes which Peake had left, including a list of one-word elements he hoped to include, ranging from "Snows Mountains Lagoons" to "Angels Devils" and "Mermaids Pirates".

The story begins with Titus dreaming of Gormenghast as snow covers a barn where he's taken shelter. When he awakens, a large white dog creeps in and offers him comfort, shortly to be followed by some mountain villagers who take him in and nurse him back to health. Despite their kindness, Titus maintains a slightly cold detachment from them, determined not to let himself be held down by anything that could jeopardize his hard-won freedom. In time, he moves on, the white dog trailing his feet, as he wanders a landscape much more pastoral than the hyper-technical world he'd encountered when he first left the bounds of Gormenghast. He encounters a range of characters, from vagrant thieves, to a snarky and self-sufficient female painter, to a gang of would-be anarchists with an eerily familiar leader, to a portly dilettante poet who might be Swelter's twin. Flitting through the narrative is a mysterious artist through whom Titus learns of different kinds of love, and who might provide the wandering young earl with a place to call home...

The book is quite obviously mostly Maeve Gilmore's work, and I can hear the literary purists mewling about that already. She might not have full command of Mervyn's word painting and verbal gymnastics, but she has a firm grasp of the characters and the ideals, that of the search for freedom and a sense of self and of home. Her style is something of a balance between the weighty, fittingly static text of the first two books and the clipped, hectic feel of the third book. I have a feeling some parts could have been fleshed out more, and there are times when it seems like she was trying to fit in as many of the some four-dozen tropes Mervyn intended to use, but I'm not going to complain: I'm just glad to have this coda to a series that I've rediscovered and become so very fond of.
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