For the record I didn't get very far with Gormenghast (it was Lord of the Rings all over again - half way through the trilogy and I found I just didn't give a damn), despite that when I saw 'Mr Pye' in the Main street bookshop I was drawn to it. It's lucky thing that bookshops like this one make me feel that it's a positive duty (as well as a joy) to spend money otherwise I'd never have bought this book and that would have been a shame - it's a glorious little book in all it's oddities.
'Mr Pye' is something between a fairy tale and magic realism - although neither description/categorisation really does justice to the book. The Mr Pye of the title is an energetic evangelist who has more than a passing resemblance to a penguin. He's a happy soul who's determined to bring universal love and harmony to the island of Sark - not an easy task, but he sets to with a will starting with his landlady Miss Dredger and her sworn enemy Miss George. Miss Dredger is a willing disciple and at first all seems to go well, at just the moment when Mr Pye is about to bring the Sarkese round to his vision of the Great Pal (at a midnight picnic with an armchair bound Miss George descending a cliff care of some sturdy ropes and even sturdier fishermen as a finale to the evening) he's upstaged by a small and very dead whale.
From there on in things get strange for Harold Pye - he starts to grow wings and it appals him. In desperation he turns to sin in the hope that they'll disappear. They do but only to be replaced by horns - which leads to an extremely stressful time for Mr Pye as he struggles to find a balance between good and evil that will allow him to remain merely a man. It's a doomed struggle and it would take someone much better versed in the dark arts of literary criticism (or who understands it all) to tease out the symbolism and meaning therein. I did read some bits and pieces from around the net about 'Mr Pye' which were interesting but nagging at the back of my mind all the time is the thought that perhaps Peake just wanted to have a bit of fun. There are some lovely jokes in this book, my favourite being a riposte to the possibility of air born Russian invasion - a murmuration of Stalin's (it reads better than I repeat it). There are also several descriptions of the local femme fatale Tintagieu that are laugh out load funny (but again better read in context than repeated).
The final strand of the story, and the one that lead me to buy the book in the first place, is Sark itself. The island is lovingly described, all it's nooks, crannies, and idiosyncrasies explored; it is as much a character in the book as Mr Pye himself - or anyone else for that mater and I certainly can't resist a good island story. This is a thoroughly rewarding book, odd, funny, and thought provoking, in equal measure.