The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Gargoyle cover art

Title: The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davindson
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385524940
Release Date: 08/05/08

My rating: 5 stars, two thumbs way up, and all my toes wigglin’!

 

…Christmas Day had shown me that Marianne Engel’s love was not feeble.  It was strapping, it was muscular, it was massive.  I thought that it could fill only my room in the burn ward, but it filled the entire hospital.  More important, her love was not reserved only for me; it was shared generously with strangers…

Andrew Davidson’s first novel, The Gargoyle, is incredibly haunting and beautiful tale of a love that has lasted 700 years.  It is unfathomable that this is the author’s first book, because Davidson writes with such depth, detail, and flow many writers take years to accomplish.

Summary:

The Gargoyle is the story about a man whose life has been complete crap: His father split before he was born, his mother died giving birth to him, his grandma died pushing him in a playground swing, and at 6 years old he goes to live with his doped-out, only remaining relatives, the Graces.  When their trailer blows up with them in it cooking their meth, The Man is suddenly alone in the world, spending the rest of his “childhood” in a group home called “Second Chance House”.  The Man questions, however when he’d had his first chance. 

After aging out of the system, he sets about making a living doing the only thing he is skilled at, sex, and becomes a coked out, heroin shooting,  porn star.  But a near fatal car accident brings and end to all that.  So at 37, he is bankrupt, and without any possessions as the creditors took and sold it all.  He is covered on much of his body with burns that render him a bit of a monstrosity with assorted apendages having been amputated -including the one most important to a man.  It is at this point he decides he will commit suicide. 

THEN, into the burn ward walks Marianne Engel, who has known and loved him since she first met him almost 700 years ago.  She is quickly whisked back to the psych ward from which she has wandered, but something about her sticks.  When The Man is released from the hospital, Marianne takes him into her home and nurses him back to health, regaling him with the tale of their first life together, along with the lives of a few other fateful lovers: the Japanese maiden and her love, a Viking apprentice in love with his manly teacher, an Italian ironworker and his plague-victim wife, and society victorian lady and her farmer husband.

The unanswered question throughout the book is: Is Marianne schizophrenic (or some other mental illness), or is she telling the truth, that she has lived 700 years?  It is a mystical, epic tale, with the questions of the existence of God, Hell, and real love are left for the reader to decide.

How this book affected me:

The Gargoyle has all the angst and emotions of a Gothic love story, with the quest for spiritual understanding of Mystic writings, and the in-your-face reality and carnage of our modern life.  It draws you in, sings to you, challenges you, then ends justly, in the only way it can.  Magical, mystical, beautiful, horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful -all are descriptions of The Gargoyle.

There are humorous events, one particular one made me think of my dad.  My father had diabetes and had occasions to go into the hospital.  He also had cancer the last two years of his life, granting him many more chances to experience the wonders of hospital life.  In one passage where the narrator describes a test of his tactile senses, the man’s response reminded me so much of my dad:

Next, to guage sensation in various parts of my body, she jabbed at me with a goddamn stick and asked how it felt.  I told her it felt like she was jabbing me with a goddamn stick.  Oh, how she laughed; what a fine comedian I was.

There are so many things that I loved about this book, I could write a book about it.  The possibility of reincarnated loves finding one another in the next life.  The stories Marianne tells to prove to the man that everlasting and unconditional love exists and is possible.  The concept of Hell building off Dante’s, yet completely tailored specofic for The Man.

One of the biggest curiousities for me, besides the obvious ones, is:  Why does Davidson never name his main character?  That may be the hardest question of all to answer.

18 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you liked it. It would have sort of sucked if you had hated it after I kept pushing it so much. I completely agree that I simply cannot believe he is a first time author. In my review I noted that the only thing that could tear me away from the first chapter was flipping to the back of the book repeatedly to make sure that this was only his first book, because I was sure my memory was deceiving me.

  2. I kept flipping to the back of the book, too, but I did it to see if he was a burn victim. His realistic and detailed account of the fire made me certain he knew from experience. There’s so much of that I would never even think of. And to understand what it was like to be burned, stick your hand and ear to the coil burner” made me cringe. YIKES! How did he come up with that? He’s now on my favorite authors list at LT… I want to read any more fiction he writes.

  3. Andrew Davidson did extensive research on burns for this novel – I’m so glad you love it. (I work for his UK publisher.)

  4. Thanks, Andrea, for the comment! I followed your link and found in The Gargoyle’s description the perfect quote for one of the things I was trying to say,

    “As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love.”

  5. The Gargoyle is in my TBR pile (not quite a mountain, but it would make a good sledding hill :) )

    Your review is well done; I’m looking forward to reading the novel.

  6. I am especially impressed by your “How this Book Affected Me” section.

    Why doesn’t Davidson name his character? Perhaps because he is everyone – or anyone?

  7. That’s an interesting way to look at it. Possibly it makes it more disconcerting to think, even somewhere subconsciously for a second, that this might be happening to me.

  8. This confirms what they say about publishers looking for something fresh. Will look on web for interviews with author to see what he says about his inspiration. I loved that his publisher’s reading this blog and commented. Aren’t books grand?

  9. By the way, what do you think of the jacket art? I like the ARC cover better than the jacket cover that’s coming out, but it’s just a personal preference.

  10. I actually had two copies of Gargoyle, both with different covers. The one I gave away is the one shown here, and the one I read is the cover on your blog. I like the one I read better. It was cool having Marianne’s back on it.

  11. Thanks for letting me know about your review! I’m so thrilled to see that this book is already getting rave reviews, and I can’t wait to see what it will do upon its release. I wholeheartedly agree that it left me with “all toes wiggling” too!

  12. Great review! Thanks for sharing it. I wondered about the main character not having a name also.

  13. I found some interviews with Andrew Davidson at his site: http://doubleday.com/thegargoyle. His publisher in the US has also created a site called http://BurnedByLove.com where you can post your own intense love story. There’s been a lot of activity there and the stories range from positive to negative.

  14. I wanted to let you know that I’m giving away a duplicate copy of *The Gargoyle*, and since I haven’t yet reviewed it, I’ve linked to your review here.

  15. I just finished this one this weekend and loved it too!

  16. […] okay… those of you who’ve been to Mt. TBR before, say it with me:  The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson […]

  17. I am only half way through the book but thoroughly enjoying it. The thing that I kept going back to look for, (until I read these reviews) was the central character’s name. I kept thnking I must have missed it. Knowing now he is nameless will only add to the enjoyment of the second half.

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