This is one of those books I decided to read because I'd heard of it, but didn't really know what it was about. It also sounded sort of interesting since it's categorized as fantasy/literature and I knew it was set in a gigantic fairy tale castle of enormous proportions complete with hidden rooms and lost hallways. Unfortunately, it sounded a lot more interesting than it was, or rather, the idea is a lot more interesting than the execution of the idea. This book reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorn, Alice in Wonderland and a humourless Terry Pratchett all rolled into one.
Most of the book is narration used by the author to convey the sense of stagnation within the castle and castle life, which centres around ritual and tradition. Peake was exceptionally good at conveying this. He did it so well that it was difficult to get through the book without stabbing out your eyeballs with your knitting needles.
The characters give off a sense of reality that is so real, that is has become distorted. Their seriousness goes so far, that reaches the ridiculous. It's like entering a parallel world where all is just slightly off and seemingly impossible, yet it's happening. The stagnation of the castle is so great that the reader finds himself identifying and liking the main character, Steerpike, so much, that it's almost easy to find his ruthless and murderous plans defensible. The world he lives in would drive anyone to extremes just to change it. It feels like he's ultimately doing them a favour, even if his actions are extremely reprehensible. Indeed, without Steerpike, the treacle like life within the castle might have become so slow and stagnant, that it one day would stop altogether, so in a sense, Steerpike is the catalyst for new life and thus deserves a medal.
All in all, I would say that the book makes it's points very well, but because it does so, it's not an overly interesting read. I doubt I'll ever read the rest of the series.
Classics Challenge 2009
I've been meaning to post my list for this so here goes:
Silas Marner by George Elliot
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Tenent of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Saturday by Ian McEwan
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
There are also a few more I already own and may read, but I won't know until I get there. It all depends on what I feel like reading/listening to.