Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Gargoyle - Book #81

Title The Gargoyle
Author Andrew Davidson
Genre Adult Fiction
Pages 465
Publisher Doubleday
Copyright 2008

Synopsis (from web-site)
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.

Why I read It
There is a lot of online buzz about this book; it is the it book of the moment (think DaVinci Code, Twilight, Time Traveler’s Wife, White Oleander, etc.). I always like to jump on any bandwagon going so I ordered it right away. Of course like the other books listed, the literary snobs feel they are above this sort of book.

The Good
If you are looking for a bookclub selection you can’t go wrong with this story. On the surface it is a story of an alcoholic, drug addicted, porn actor/director who suffers a horrific accident leaving him severely burned; and his heavily tattooed, chain smoking, schizophrenic, gargoyle sculpting girlfriend. That is quite a plot but on a deeper level it is the story of love and how it can conquer the coldest of hearts (stone?) and find true beauty in the grotesque.

The Bad
The description of his pre-accident life and his consequent injuries are pretty strong. I would never want to suffer a burn injury and that was before knowing what the treatment involved. I have heard from some of my friends that the initial descriptions were too hard to make it through.

The Ugly (my opinion)
This is an original and compelling story well worth the read. If you have a hard time with the graphic nature of the burns just gut through it. The deeper tale is very moving and can open up many avenues of debate among other readers. My favorite line from the whole book though has little to do with the overall plot, but it amused me. “Even nuns know that while poverty is a virtue, it is terribly inconvenient.” (P245)

The Truth? (other reviews)
New York Times 1
New York Times 2
The Guardian

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Andrew Davidson was born in Pinawa, Manitoba, and graduated in 1995 from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in English literature. He has worked as a teacher in Japan, where he has lived on and off, and as a writer of English lessons for Japanese Web sites. The Gargoyle, the product of seven years' worth of research and composition, is his first book. Davidson lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Lena said...

I love your book reviews. After looking through your authors list, I noticed you don't have any Neil Gaiman. You would really enjoy him. He has a pretty diverse body of work including young adult novels novels recently made into movies (Coraline and Stardust). In case you aren't familiar with him. My favorite so far is Good Omens. You might like it even more since it is set in England.

Anonymous said...

When I read this book I was actually wincing at his descriptions. The man has talent with the written word. Suzanne

Anonymous said...

It is a child's book by Neil Gaiman, but The Graveyard Book is really quite good as well if you are going to read some of his work. Suzanne

Lisa said...

Loved this book and I cried at the prospect of his life out her. Of course she had spent centuries waiting to find him again.