Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review - The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

I love the cover - it is so gorgeous!
Author: Andrew Davidson
Release: August 2008
Publisher:  Doubleday
Pages: 480
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon

An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.

Already an international literary sensation, The Gargoyle is an Inferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.

When I think about Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle, the words that come to mind are grotesque, graphic, disturbing . . . magical, beautiful, unforgettable. After hearing so many wonderful things about this book, I was really excited to read it. But I have to admit it was difficult for me to get into, & I was kind of disappointed. Don't get me wrong - I think Davidson is an INCREDIBLY talented & creative writer, & I ended up changing my tune, but I struggled at first with the slower pace & quite depressing subject matter. I was shocked by the narrator's career as a porn star & didn't care for the explicit descriptions involved, (You've been warned!) but was glad I continued reading after some encouragement from my friends.

I found the description of the accident, burns, & medical procedures horribly disturbing & had to skim through parts. At the same time, Davidson's descriptions were so real, uncensored & blunt that I found them surprisingly beautiful!

I very much enjoyed the stories within the story as they transported me to the past & to different lands: Japan, Italy, Iceland, Germany, England; relating the difficult yet beautiful accounts of human love & devotion. It was a constant battle trying to distinguish between a storyteller's wild imagination & the possible reality of a love that had truly lasted through the ages.

The haunting imagery from Dante's Inferno ran throughout the book & was definitely the highlight for me. I also loved the way the character's mindset & horrific situation had me reflecting on my own attitude & appreciation for life, my feelings of self-doubt, the worth of a soul, & the redeeming power of love.

I highly recommend this book (if you can get past some of the difficult-to-read parts). It was one of my favorite reads of the year!


"None are here by accident. Hell is a choice because salvation is available to anyone who seeks it. The damned choose their fates, by deliberately hardening their hearts."
~ The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson