Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake is one of those ground breaking books that has undoubtedly spawned entire genres and sub-genres of writing. This, the first part of Peake's epic trilogy which has been categorized by some as fantasy, uses cartoonish hyperbole, humor and a kind of literary chiaroscuro to present a tale of dysfunctional royalty and their less than loyal subjects. Reading Mervyn Peake invariably conjures the tropes of German Expressionism in films like Fritz Lang's M, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, or even G.W. Pabst's The Threepenny Opera.
There are monstrous craggy edifices alive with dense vine as dark as the tresses of gypsy maids. Gnarled roots like appendages grow from the ancient stones bridging orphaned wings to main branches. Tiny subjects cast Goliath shadows as they skulk from spire to spire whether discharging daily duties or maneuvering through machinations. Peake is a master of atmosphere, mostly dark.
|Artist and writer Mervyn Peake|
Peake's first love was fine art. He was a painter and illustrator most famously for later editions of many of Lewis Carrol's works. He was championed by many of his contemporaries, mainstream British authors like Graham Greene and Anthony Burgess. Unfortunately, Mervyn Peake has never gotten the recognition he truly deserves; either as an artist or as a fantasy writer well ahead of his time.