Two of my favourites.

Over the weekend I have been reminding myself of two favourite books, Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake) and Riddley Walker (Russell Hoban).

These are both very strange books, an RW is a VERY tough read. Nonetheless, they are both worth your time.


Gormenghast is a peculiar kind of thriller set in a strange decaying world where the royal family, surrounded by arcane ritual, is infiltrated by a cunning kitchen boy. The result is a gripping page-turner that delivers a fantastic ending. It is a bit weird but a perfectly straightforward read. The characters and description are simply wonderful.

There is a TV adaptation from 2000 which can be watched in ten minute segments on Youtube. However, this production does not come anywhere near to the power of the book.

The following clip (one of the better scenes from the TV series) shows the bizarre, mentally conjoined twins, Cora and Clarice, being tempted by the promise of their former position at court by the devious Steerpike.

Riddley Walker

Riddley Walker is a novel set in post-nuclear-war Kent. It is written in a mutated language which demonstrates the way language continues to develop over time, and that by losing any means of recording language, it will mutate all the quicker. It is majestic piece of prose, filled with strange characters and a chilling plot. It resembles an iron-age society, so complete has the destruction of civilisation been.

The clip below is of novelist Will Self reading from the book. The scene is of the protagnist, the teenage Riddley, finding a strange figure in the earth: a puppet of Mr Punch.

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