#bookaday 2: Best bargain

A lot of my books are bargains. Charity shops, jumble sales, second-hand bookshops and Kindle Daily Deals account for an awful lot of my reading. However, for my best bargain read I’m going to nominate the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake, all three books of which I picked up for a pound (in total, not each) at the regular market held every Tuesday in my university’s student union building. Whenever I see even a picture of those Penguin Modern Classic editions from the early 70s, I can smell not only musty old paperbacks but also incense, because the book stall was next to the stall that sold assorted hippy crap like Tibetan woven trousers, tie-dyed t-shirts and joss sticks.

At the time, I had finished most of my classes and had a couple of weeks of the term left before the summer holidays. I bought the books having fallen in love with the covers and the description on the back of Titus Groan, took them back to my shared house and read the first one lying in the tiny, overgrown garden with foot-high grass around me and the bees buzzing in the lavender bushes that had completely overtaken what had once been flowerbeds. I was immediately drawn into the strange, dream-like, languorously shadowy world of Gormenghast, with its melancholy characters, endless tragicomic rituals, infinite sadness and unsettling charm.

At the time, I was in the grip of a bout of depression that I didn’t fully understand, and having some quite serious and frightening doubts about my sanity. You might imagine that the general gloom of Gormenghast might have been just the thing to tip me over the edge, but far from it. The Gormenghast trilogy absorbed me so completely that I definitely think it played an important role in, if not actually lifting me out of my depression, then certainly helping me come to understand that a sense of wonder can come from even the darkest of times.

Not bad for a quid.