Following a passionate review of the Gormenghast Trilogy by Stephen Lang on his blog it seemed like a good moment to put the disappointments of a television adaptation to one side and give the books by Mervyn Peake a chance. Luckily the memories of the TV version have all but faded except for John Sessions playing the doctor if I remember rightly.
There is always going to be a temptation to make a television adaptation of a book that is written by a writer who also appreciates the value of images. Peake was also an illustrator and there are occasional pictures of some of the characters that on top of his rich visual descriptions make it easy for a casting agent to go off and find the right face. On the flipside for the reader the imagination is supported to the point where you can feel comfortable with the castle and the weird characters in it and set out on your own journey in that environment.
Bullet points between pages 1 – 60
* A host of weird characters are introduced with Rottcodd the curator of the hall of bright carvings being quickly placed in conversation with Flay the servant to the Earl of Groan who reveals that the Earl has just become father to a son
* Flay then moves to the kitchens where he watches the obese structure of the drunken chef Swelter drink himself into a state of collapse before leaving being followed by the newest recruit to the kitchen boys Steerpike who is looking for a way of escaping
* Flay takes him through a room full of white cats that belong to the Countess and then shows him through a spy hole the private apartments of the Earl and Countess and Steerpike overhears the Earl asking the doctor if he thought his son was ugly
* Then the Countess is introduced, a woman surrounded one minute by birds and then the next by cats, who has no interest in her son Titus and sends him away not to return until he is six
* Meanwhile the clock has turned back slightly and a picture is painted of Fuchsia who spends most of her time in isolation in the attic and takes it very badly when she hears about the birth of a brother
Steerpike for the time being has disappeared from view but you sense (maybe it’s the picture of him on the cover of the version I am reading) that he will have a very important role to play. More tomorrow…