Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: The Gargoyle

El Jefe asked me last night what I was reading on my Kindle. I told him I was finishing The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, a novel that is almost impossible to describe.

When pressed, I said that it is an allegory about the power of love. That's the best short summation of an intricate plot that I could come up with on the spot.

The gargoyle is both the nameless narrator who was horrifically burned in an accident caused by his own drunken and drugged driving and the obsession of his lover, Marianne Engel, a successful sculptor of gargoyle images.

Marianne is a mysterious and compelling character. Is she sane or delusional? Does she suffer from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or both? Or is she what she claims to be: the narrator's 700 year old first lover whom he first met in medieval Germany when he was a badly wounded soldier whom she nursed back to health in the convent where she was a nun and master scribe?

Marianne is a master storyteller and throughout the novel weaves memorable tales of true love that work their magic on the dead soul of and spirit of The Gargoyle whose secret goal is to recover sufficiently from his burns to get discharged from the hospital so he can commit suicide.

Usually I find time-traveling novels hard to follow or too cute by half, but Andrew Davidson deftly blends the different time periods of the narrative so that it works. The last part of the novel echoes Dante's Inferno in ways that I cannot describe without spoiling the plot for you.

The novel starts somewhat slowly. The narrator, a self-centered porn star and addict, is not a sympathetic character as the story opens. Details of his extensive burn injuries and the excruciating treatments he must endure are hard to keep reading. But the reader's persistence will be rewarded by this amazing novel and its themes of eternal love, self-sacrifice, patience and renewal.


Sue said...

Loved, loved, loved this book. I thought Davidson's subtlety about Marianne and his flexibility in characterizing the narrator (good guy, creepy guy, sad guy...) was just incredible.

I'm glad you're enjoying it!

Quotidian Grace said...

I've been trying to remember where I heard about the book--maybe it was from you! I agree with you about the characters--masterfully drawn.

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