An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.
On a burn ward, a man lies between living and dying, so disfigured that no one from his past life would even recognize him. His only comfort comes from imagining various inventive ways to end his misery. Then a woman named Marianne Engel walks into his hospital room, a wild-haired, schizophrenic sculptress on the lam from the psych ward upstairs, who insists that she knows him ¨C that she has known him, in fact, for seven hundred years. She remembers vividly when they met, in another hospital ward at a convent in medieval Germany, when she was a nun and he was a wounded mercenary left to die. If he has forgotten this, he is not to worry: she will prove it to him.
And so Marianne Engel begins to tell him their story, carving away his disbelief and slowly drawing him into the orbit and power of a word he'd never uttered: love.
Product Description 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¡ªfor 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¡ªand, 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¡ªand 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.
Andrew Davidson Talks About Becoming a Writer Some of what follows is true.
When I was about seven, I had a turtle named Stripe. I decided, because I liked my turtle and Jacques Cousteau, that I wanted to be a marine biologist. This ambition lasted until I was ten years old, when I spent a year gazing into the abyss, hoping that the abyss would not gaze back at me. At eleven, I longed for a master to teach me the secrets of the ninja, but the teacher did not appear; this probably means that as a student I was not ready. As I entered my teens, I set my heart upon becoming a professional hockey player. On weekend nights, the final game at the local arena ended around 10 p.m. but the icemaker was unable to leave the building until about midnight, as he had to clean the dressing rooms and do maintenance. I bribed him with presents of Aqua Velva aftershave to let me play alone on the rink until he headed home. Despite my devotion, I never developed the skills to make it off the small-town rink and into the big leagues. My dream shattered, at sixteen I started to spend more time writing. I began by changing the lyrics to Doors songs. I rewrote "Break On Through" so that it became "Live to Die": "Soldier in the forest / dodging bullets thick / only took one / to make him cry / All of us just live to die." Clearly, writing was my future.
I soon realized that, since I still had no authorial voice of my own, I should at least imitate better poets than Jim Morrison. Soon I was word-raping Leonard Cohen, e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, and John Milton. After writing much abusively derivative poetry, I moved onto stage plays written in a mockery of the style of Tennessee Williams, which also didn¡¯t work out so well. Next, I tried to put baby in a corner, until it was explained to me that nobody puts baby in a corner. Following this, I produced short stories that would have been much better if they were much shorter. Then, screenplays that even Alan Smithee wouldn¡¯t direct.
Somewhere along the way, I managed to get a degree in English Literature; this was strange, as I thought I was studying cardiology. Undaunted, off to Vancouver Film School I went, but naturally not to study film. Instead, I took the new media course, because there was this thing called the internet that was just taking off. I also spent a fair amount of time using digital editing software for video and audio. An example project: I slowed down the final movement to Beethoven¡¯s Ninth Symphony, looped it backwards, put in a heavy drumbeat, and end up with a funeral dirge. "Ode to Joy"? I think not. "Ode to Bleakness" is more like it; I was very deep, and showed it by destroying joy.
After this course finished, I had tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, and could no longer avoid getting a job. I soon discovered, in no uncertain terms, that work is no fun. I stuck it out for as long as I could, which was way less than a lifetime. As my thirtieth birthday approached, I became incredibly aware that I had never lived abroad, so I moved to Japan.
I had no idea if I would like Japan, but I vowed to stick it out for a year. I did, and then another year, and another, and another, and another. In the beginning, I worked as a kind of substitute teacher of English, covering stints in classrooms that needed a temporary instructor. I lived in fifteen different cities during my first two years, traveling from the northern island of Hokkaido all the way down to the southern island of Okinawa. It was a great introduction to the country, but eventually the constant relocation became too much. I got a job in a Tokyo office, writing English lessons for Japanese learners on the internet. I lived in the big city for three years, and loved it: hooray for sushi, hooray for sumo, and hooray for cartoon mascots.
While in Japan, I entertained myself by writing and, having already mangled poetry, short stories, stage plays and screenplays, I thought it was time to give a novel a shot. A strange thing happened: I found that I don¡¯t write like other people when it comes to novels¡ªor at least, none of which I know. It¡¯s true that I¡¯ve read comparisons of my novel to a number of other books¡ªThe Name of the Rose, The English Patient, The Shadow of the Wind¡ªbut I haven¡¯t read any of them. (To my great shame, really, and I suppose I should. Since they are my supposed influences, I should become familiar with them. I¡¯ll appear more intelligent in interviews.)
I liked writing The Gargoyle, and I think I¡¯ll write another novel. If I can, I¡¯ll make up new characters and a new plot. That¡¯s my plan.
Brutal and brilliant and wonderful This is an amazing book, plain and simple. Normally a synopsis of a book that reads something like 'an ex porn star turned horribly disfigured burn victim meets strange and possibly mentally ill sculptor claiming to be born in the 1300s' would lead one to beleive that the book MAY be a little too odd for consumption.
Don't let that steer you away from this book! Yes, that's part of what happens in the book. Yes, at times some of the things the narrator goes through and describes are a bit painful to read but Davidson never comes off as trying to make these 'shock moments'. They're simply there because that's what happened to the narrator of the story. There are many graphic depictions of pain as well as the narrator's 'prior profession' that may be a little uncomfortable for some to read, but it's never just for the sake of putting these moments in. It all leads somewhere.
During the course of the narrator's convalescence, we're told various stories from different times and places in hiostory some of which involve the main characters, some of which don't. Each is its own story, but they all tie into the greater whole of the book.
It's very difficult to describe what I really liked about this book, partially because it's not easily categorized and partially because I don't want to give anything away!
Despite what genre it may or may not be in, if you enjoy reading and enjoy a good story with a wonderful set of main character, you should definetly read this....more info
The good, the bad and the ugly... The Good:
It's a page turner, where the author weaves together a variety of differnt tales to explore the relationship between suffering, spiritual growth and the emptying of one's self.
Seemed very well researched. Lots of symbolism and metaphor.
A few plotlines or devices are left unexplained, such as *** spoiler alert *** this whole thing about Marianne having to carve gargoyles out of stone to release hearts (huh!? wtf!? it doesn't make any sense when the concept is first introduced and is never explained).
Well, you can hardly complain about ugly in this book since it deals with physical suffering, degradation of the body and the sculpting of "grotesques". In fact, the detailed description of the narrator's suffering as a burn patient is a central part of the symbolism in the book.
What's a bit harder to get over though is that the narrator is a supposed uneducated, porn star who grew up in a white-trash household - and yet, writes with the voice of a philosopher...hmmm...never quite jived for me.
An interesting metaphorical story that I found well worth reading.
Love Among the Ashes It seems appropriate that THE GARGOYLE came to me when it did...just around Valentine's Day. It is a very non-traditional romance but a love story nonetheless. After reading the first few pages, I was hesitant about what lay in store for me. The book opens with a horrific car crash where the narrator is burned over the majority of his body. Following this inauspicious beginning, we hear about what a licentious life the narrator lead before his accident and then an almost unbearable description of his burn wounds and their treatment. The narrator explains that he plans to kill himself upon his release from the hospital. But then he meets Marianne.
Marianne shows up in the narrator's hospital room and tells him they have been lovers for centuries through many lifetimes. She begins to tell him their story and slowly transforms him in the process. This is where the book started to pick up and from that point on, I was hooked.
This is not a pretty love story. We are taken through time and space to witness great tragedy and suffering. We are even literally taken through Hell. Yet, there is great hope within this story as we see how love can be transcendent and liberating. In THE GARGOYLE, love is a true meeting and connection of souls.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. While some of the depictions in the novel may be difficult for some readers, the story makes it all worthwhile. In the midst of the darkness and tragedy, there is great beauty. A highly satisfying read....more info
Horrifying, Tragic, Haunting and Magical There is no such thing as a book that will appeal to everyone. We can only report from our own unique point of view and others will have to either take that leap of faith or not. I read over 100 books a year. It takes a rare book to truly move me, to stay in my mind for more than a few days and this was one of them.
You will know already from the book flaps that this is about a man who has led a shallow, empty life who has had a horrific car accident in which he is maimed and burned beyond recognition; his former life and all that he was, his very humanity to a certain extent, has been literally stripped away. And the descriptions of his accident and his long recovery in the burn unit is graphic and harrowing. He, not unreasonably, hopes to recover enough to be able to take his own life until Marianne Engel, a sculptor of gargoyles and a mental patient at the hospital, comes to him speaking of a time in the 14th. century when she was a member of the community of learned and mystic women of the Monastery at Engelthal and he was a wounded mercenary and her lover.
Now, all this would have been intriguing enough for me: a view into an unknown world (the burn unit, the narrator's sad life and coping with catastrophe), the Beauty and the Beast theme replete with angel and gargoyle imagery, a Scheherazade telling tragic love stories about lovers from medieval Italy, Victorian England, Feudal Japan and Viking Iceland in order to stave off the narrator's death, a glimpse into life in 14th. century Germany... but there is more. There are action scenes of chases and battles with brutal medieval mercenaries, trips through Hell and references to Dante's Inferno, mental illness and drug addiction, transformation and survival, feasts from around the world, languages and acrostics, examinations of life and what makes it worth living, belief--even for atheists, and love through and beyond time and death.
I was totally captured by the narrator, with his detached, wry manner and amoral past. Marianne, too, was wholly sympathetic while being flawed and often unfathomable. They tempered the more fantastic elements with realism even while they stretched the envelope of credibility. The author plays games that sometimes are too cute, and plays with themes that could be too sententious and bordering on bathos, and yet still manages to keep it real.
A friend recommended this book to me, for which I am grateful. I have recommended this book to other friends, but am not at all sure if they will like it; I just know that I did. ...more info
True and enduring love The nameless narrator of The Gargoyle is, on the surface, one of the "beautiful people," but beauty truly is only skin deep for this self-centered, cynical and unhappy man. So it is ironic that the very thing that defines him, his beautiful outer shell, is severely burned turning him into a "monster." He is determined to commit suicide and constructs an elaborate and fool-proof method to end a life that he believes has no meaning without his physical beauty.
Marianne Engel is a psychiatric patient who appears at the narrator's bedside. She claims that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. She is, like Scheherazade, a teller of tales and draws this devastated man into her stories of enduring love. Instead of saving her own life though, she saves the life of the narrator through her continuing tales.
Marianne is more than a storyteller though. She is a sculptor of gargoyles, or grotesques. Again, it is ironic that a man who has become a living grotesque, should fall in love with a woman who carves them from stone. Both living grotesque and stone grotesques are shaped through pain and suffering. While the narrator does indeed suffer through multiple physical "sculptings," what is more significant is the inner shaping of his heart, turning it from stone to a living thing overflowing with love.
I wanted to read this book quickly, but I forced myself to slow down and savor this beautiful novel. The Gargoyle is an unusual love story that captures the nature of true, lasting and redeeming love. Davidson weaves several tales of love within his own tale and creates what I think is a beautiful tapestry with unexpected connections. After reading The Gargoyle, I'm even more convinced that love really is something that endures beyond the life we know....more info
You must read this Simply awe-inspiring. Did you like Stephane Meyer's "The Host"? Not really similar in style but in the effect. Breathtaking. I applaud Andrew Davidson on this masterpiece and I will buy every book he writes after this if they even come close to the quality of The Gargoyle. I read it in a day-I wasn't able to put it down....more info
A main character you will love to hate or hate to love, perhaps both I laughed and cried as I read this book. You will see the worst parts of yourself form entire broken characters, which, in turns, will make you squirm uncomfortably and make you feel less alone. My only complaint is that often the references are obscure and, left unexplained, make the reader feel like they should have known what was meant and in not knowing, he is an idiot. Perhaps it could be called literary snobbery.
Still, it's worth a read. I loved the main character, despite his bitter sarcasm (or maybe because of it)....more info
Not a Romance but a Love Story Nonetheless I can't remember when I've had such a hard time writing a book review as I've had with this review The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. On the surface, this is a simple story about the physical recovery of a severely burned pornographer and his relationship with a mentally ill sculptor, but as the book unfolds, it becomes clear that the book is so much more. The book starts out almost completely as a clich¨¦--an evil pornographer is severely burned and realizes he has nothing left to live for. The characters are completely one dimensional--the pornographer/narrator as the villain, the crazy artist, the aloof medical staff and the pretentious psychologist. However, so slowly that I didn't even notice it was happening, the characters and the book became so much more that by the end, the characters were well developed, believable and likable.
The farther I got into this book, the harder I found it to put down. While not a romance in the traditional sense of the word, it is a love story--a book about the all-encompassing, transformational nature of true love.
Bottom line is I liked this book. As I finished reading it, I just had to put it down and think about what I had read. Even now, more than a week after I finished it, I'm still going back through some of the passages in my mind, puzzling over the deeper meaning therein. It's the kind of book that makes you think and also makes you examine some of the elements of your own life and your relationships with others. I will be very interested to see more of Mr. Davidson's work in the future.
Quite a long slog The first chapter is brilliant. After that, it slowly goes downhill. Down and down and down, into utter stupidity. The last half is incredibly boring....more info
Could not finish If you like a book that goes back and forth from the past to the present from one paragraph to the next you might like this book. I however, did not like the switching back and forth. I could not finish this book sorry to say. I think it is a good story line, but to confusing to keep track of it all for me. I like my books to transport me to a place, but not keep me on the red eye....more info
Beautiful and engrossing! If Andrew continues to write books like this he will, without a doubt, be one of the most praised writers of his time. Even thought I didn't particularly like the ending the passion and intensity of the rest of the book made up for it. Do yourself a favor and read it. This was a masterpiece that few modern writers can achieve. The author has a lot to live up too with his next book, but if this is any indication he will surpass it easily. ...more info
GREAT STUFF. Imagine realizing that you know someone from 700 years ago. That is the premise of this fascinating novel, which pits modern reality against the philosophical concept of reincarnation. Heady reading for those who enjoy a captivating story....more info
A whole lot going on... I was unfamiliar with this work and not quite sure what to expect. There were many, many layers in terms of characters and plotlines. Twisted enough to hold my interest but not so gory that it seemed sensationalized just for the sake of shock value.
A good, quick read....more info
Great beginning. where to now? Okay ending. I was really involved with this book at the beginning. Toward the middle I was hoping that Davidson had a good way to tie it all together. In the end I was somewhat disappointed. I guess for me his whole take on love, redemption and hell was a little too simplistic. It just didn't really satisfy me. A good read but with reservations. It's funny that some of the reviewers had trouble with the beginning because I felt that was some of the most riveting writing in the book. I wouldn't say not to read it because it's definitely good enough, and he's a good writer,and very funny in a dark way, but I'm not going to put it in the great category. ...more info
Just damn good! Mister Davidson gave me hours of reading/thinking pleasure! I thank him for that. As so many here have given the gist of the story, I'll just add that THE GARGOYLE kept me reading and reading . . .
I look forward to Andrew Davidson's next book. But how he'll top this one, I don't know....more info
Best Read I've had in a while While reading this book, of course I looked to the author's photo and was surprised he wasn't burned. Such chilling insight, I could believe it was an autobio. Such a refreshing style, hard to believe this is a first effort. Definately for mature readers, but guaranteed to please someone who reads "too much". I thoroughly enjoyed this book with it's blend of ancient history and pop reference. Chocolate frogs indeed! And his use of fonts, very original. I can think of few books that include this visual treat. I find my self telling people about this book and borrowing phrases. "Sweet potatoes, sweeter potatoes, sweetest potatoes" Davidson is a genius!...more info
A great first book! Okay, the first few chapters are a bit hard to get through...and you may not like the narrator, at first...but, if you stick it out for about 50 pages you are in for a treat. Andrew Davidson's debut novel will not disappoint!...more info
Great read, had me hooked from the first chapter This book was one of the best books that I have read this year. I really enjoyed the story line. In the begining I was intrigued by the relationship between the two but it all came together in the end.
Definetly some grusome parts but a must read for most....more info
Dear Ashley...... My review is written for all to see, but is especially written to Ashley Sheridan.
You did not lure me into reading this book. You did not trick me either. But you demanded it of me, and I did read it.
Now. This is the hard part. I am not sure that I can honestly say that it is a good book, nor can I say that it is one of the best I have ever read, because, as so many people, I "just don't get it." I wondered, as I often have been asked, if when I am dreaming , is that really real life and when I am in what I think is reality, am I dreaming? This book reminds me a little bit of a modern Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." I thought that the story in the present was wonderful and learned to like the narrator and Marianne. But the stories that Marianne told to the narrator, I had a rather tough time getting through. But I have you, and only you, to thank as I have spent the last 10 days slowly plodding along, because you demanded it. My wife has me well trained. I imagine that the more I think about it, the more I will realize that it is a great love story, told so terribly twisted, that one has to have the time to sort it out and stomach what has been read. But again I thank you for your scolding and high demands. If ya have anymore books to tell me that I have to read, please let me know. Think I will go and read a bit lighter book now. Confused, amazed, happy, baffled, but glad I followed your explicit directions.
Some Marvellous Writing, Some Terrible Writing The historical romance at the heart of this novel is absolutely enthralling and brilliantly executed. But at the same time, this story is interwoven with what might be called a "frame narration" set in modern times that works far less well. The extreme tension and excitement of the historical narrative, set in medieval times, is not matched by the events that happen in modern times, and in the modern sections, the writing lags and is even trite or sloppy in places. For this novel to be completely successful, the modern day characters should be caught up in an external conflict as compelling as the one in the historical romance. But instead, the modern story line is a little slow, and there are repeated references to the narrator being stalked by what he calls a "bitch snake" in his spine, something like the proverbial monkey on an addict's back, which he quells by a morphine addiction. This is the least convincing aspect of the whole book; the conflict simply does not persuade and the writing in these sections seems trite, even ridiculous. Only when Davidson turns to his medieval story lines and enters the genre of fantasy and historical romance does his writing really become exceptional. The poor sections are worth enduring for the sake of the brilliant vision at the heart of this highly original story....more info
Fun story that keeps you on your toes This book switches from past to present beautifully. You want to know more about the mysterious Marianne, as she grips you with her words and actions. it was a great read, and leaves you wanting more....more info
On Beauty, Hell, and Healing in Andrew Davidson's "The Gargoyle"
Andrew Davidson's THE GARGOYLE continues to win acclaim for a number of reasons: one is the author's insightful blend of world cultures to create a single tapestry of world-class literature. Another is his seemingly seamless fusion of classic genres such as Gothic, erotica, and horror to create something new beneath the literary sun. And a third is his invention of two of the most compelling characters in modern literature.
The role played by the defining power of character throughout The Gargoyle becomes evident in its first horrific opening pages as our nameless anti-hero drinks and drives his way to a life-altering crash. The detailed account of the inferno that engulfs and permanently disfigures him is as lucidly terrifying as it is mesmerizingly precise. It's not the kind of thing that most people survive but this man does, albeit with severe anatomical damage and loss: "I could hear the bubbling of my skin as the flames kissed it." In fact, as a man and former porn star, he suffers the loss of the one appendage with which he had earned his living.
During the course of his hospital recovery, the narrator battles thoughts of suicide, a growing addiction to morphine, and the excruciating pain of cultivating the growth of brand new skin. Enter Marianne Engel--"She appeared in the burn ward door dressed in a light green hospital gown, with those unsolvable eyes and that riotously entangled hair"--a former psychiatric patient and artist famed for sculpting gargoyles. She is convinced that she and the once-upon-a-time porn star have shared at least one major previous lifetime together when she was a German nun and he was a mercenary soldier. Even more odd, however, is Marianne's claim to have never died at all while waiting some seven centuries to reconnect with her once-beloved. She is comfortable enough with this belief that she strips naked in her new/old friend's hospital room to reveal a body covered with a luxury of tattoos: a beaded rosary and cross, a snake coiling up her leg to her sex, a Sacred Heart on her left breast, a pair of angel wings upon her back, and more.
Whereas we might expect the irony to be painful, it is instead profoundly daring. Engel stands before her friend painted with beautiful symbols while the man once accustomed to being paid for his beauty is now something more akin to her gargoyle sculptures. To a degree, it would seem that his extreme disfigurements make him into the "Gargoyle" of the book's title. But herein may lie a central aspect of author Davidson's literary art. Is his anti-hero a gargoyle now because of how he looks, or was he in fact more of a gargoyle because of the cynicism and self-absorption that dominated his personality before his life-transforming accident? And does the ensuing journey through his personal hell to emotional and spiritual recovery make actually make him more beautiful than he ever was in the past?
Marianne seems at first to be a hyper eccentric teller of tales whose stories simultaneously puzzle, captivate, and motivate her friend. It turns out, however, that these stories--in such diverse settings as France, Japan, Germany, and Iceland--have a much greater function than simply passing the time while recuperating. Davidson's skill at evoking the passions and dilemmas of characters in different cultures and historical eras is truly admirable. Likewise, his Dickensian talent for the creation of a cast of supporting characters who, against the odds, lend credible depth, substance, and color to the narrator's and Marianne's fantastic story.
Maniacal or not (or more precisely, "schizophrenic or not," as our narrator suspects) Marianne becomes much like the angel indicated by the tattooed wings on her back as she moves our narrator into her home. There, she alternately nurses, tells one amazing story after another, and works herself into frenzied bloody exhaustion to complete a final series of gargoyle sculptures, with the very last being of you-know-who. As one grows weaker and the other grows stronger, their original roles reverse and readers find themselves rethinking the plausibility of Marianne's extraordinary claims.
Interwoven masterfully throughout The Gargoyle are deeply embedded allusions to Dante Alighieri's Inferno that not only tell the history of the book itself, but that in some ways re-write the masterpiece and present it in modern form as The Gargoyle. To fully understand such a notion, one has to read and actually experience Davidson's triumphant first novel. A number of readers have suggested that taking on The Inferno (for those of us who did not get to it in high school or college) either after or before reading The Gargoyle, doubly enhances the pleasure of delving into this exceptional work of new millennium fiction.
by Author-Poet Aberjhani
author of The American Poet Who Went Home Again
and Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World
Grotesque and Beautiful I loved this book. I loved the grotesque micro-imagery and the sparing of no physical details. I expected this to be a 'pop' book, a quick read that I'd put away and not think of again. This is not the case. I have thought about it many times and even had a dream about it. I would never have guessed this was Mr. Davidson's first novel. He writes too well and the flow is like an established author. He is also able to juggle two story lines - one in the present and one in the past. The protagonists of the present story are a man who has lived a superficial life and a woman who has been diagnosed as shizophrenic. The man has been burned very severely after a night of doing a lot of drugs and driving under the influence. His priorities prior to his hospitalization post-burn have been money, drugs, and lots of sex. The woman who approaches him in the hospital, saying "I see you've been burned again", begins to tell him stories of their past lives together, giving him small bits day by day. Is she crazy? Is all this real? Read the book and find out. I could not put it down. Neither could my husband. I'm surprised it's not a best-seller because it has all the makings. The one thing I did not like was all the hype on the web. I think this book can and will make it on its own by word of mouth and folks reading the reviews. I certainly look forward to Mr. Davidson's next book. I think this novel would make a great movie! ...more info
Whoa - I couldn't put it down! This is a writer to watch - I was so impressed by Davidson's skill with language. His prose was so stunning that I'd periodically have to pause, reread, and reread to indulge my inner muse. The vivid, often grotesque imagery made this reading experience incredibly full, physical. YES, THE NARRATOR IS HATEFUL! It is his total transformation that gives this novel its appeal. The writer has authentically worked his way into the spine of this character, and so I was captivated by him from the start. Marianne's accounts add dimension to the world of this novel - the stories across centuries are fantastically varied yet the same. The characters reincarnate and face the same burdens until the incongruencies within their souls resolve, by strength of will (Marianne), and vulnerability (narrator) - they extrapolate the stories we exhaustively reenact over and over again in our own finite lives, until we can do the same. How apt - this cutting away of skin, of external self - this blessing of debridement, profoundly exposes self and in turn liberates it. ...more info
Couldn't Get Into the Story This book has gotten some wonderful reviews, and I wish that I could have enjoyed it as well. But I couldn't get past the first few chapters. I couldn't develop a liking for the characters. Maybe the issue was with their backgrounds? That said, the description of what goes on in burn wards is very good and a reference I'll keep if I ever need it for my stories.
Ya-hoo, what a ride!! This is a wonderful, dark, creepy, exciting read. I loved every character, every side story. Too bad Davidson doesn't have more books out already as I would snatch up every one of them ASAP. Couldn't put this book down.
If you want to read a totally different kind of book; no vampires and werewolves sucking blood and kissing or body parts being eaten by zombies, then this book will keep you entertained.
Outstanding New Author This story is different than any other I have ever read. I loved the stories weaved in and out of the events of the present day. The details about burns and burn wards was fascinating and did not put me off at all. This author puts you right in the story with his description - and what is wrong with that? I have a deeper appreciation of what burn patients go through and only hope I never have to experience that first hand.
I am anxious to see what Davidson gives us next. I hope something just as different and just as emotional; a story that leaves me breathless to the end as Gargoyle did. ...more info
Disturbingly pleasant! This book was fabulous! While definitely graphic it is also very accurate in the way burns are treated and I would think how they occur. The inner struggle is a wonderful view inside the psyche of a selfish man as he loses all that he knows, including his beauty and becomes something else with the help of an eccentric. I cannot wait for more of Andrew Davidson's books to show themselves....more info
Disturbing addictive read Just finished this book. We will make this a read of the month for my bookstore for romance & new age fiction readers. This book is about personal exploration, reflection and life making this solid read for those looking for a new circle.
Amazingly Good Book!!! This book was amazing: the stories within the story, the characters and the way Andrew Davidson describes everything was beautiful. You can tell he is going to be a very successful writer, especially since this is his very first book! I can't wait to read book 2, 3, 4.....etc!...more info
Monstrously Beautifully I loved this book - from the physical beauty of the book itself (they did an amazing job with the cover!) to the even more beautiful words within. The story was so beautifully sad... I enjoyed reading it, but am so very sad to finish it... It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel! It is so polished... I can't wait to read whatever he publishes next! I just loved this book!...more info
Well written and interesting, but... This book is well written and interesting, but not really great reading material. I felt like it was some kind of odd history lesson that I just couldn't get that into. I did make myself finish the book, but it took me longer than normal to finish. ...more info
Great Read This book was one of the better books I have read in awhile. The twists and turns that Davidson has in this book are great....more info
I was just as skeptical as you, but trust me when I tell you, "Read this book." I came across this book after searching through hordes of others that seemed to focus on "metaphysical tricks and puzzles," with ridiculous and fantastic stories, but which lacked much depth. I like challenging books, but lately anything reccomended to me as interesting, or worth reading severely lacked any semblence of a good plot, with the exception of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.
Then I found The Gargoyle.
I will admit that the cover did turn me off a bit, and that the title itself made me instantly think of a Katherine Kerr novel, which is not a good thing.. but still, I clicked.
The plot sounded way more interesting than I had anticipated it would.
A doped up burn victim with a "bitchsnake" in his spine who meets a woman who claims they were lovers in the 1400's? Oh yes.
I went to my library that afternoon, and devoured the book in 3 days.
There are stories within the main story which helps to keep the reader hooked, just when they decide it's time to study for their Italian Final... ahem... and the way in which Andrew Davidson writes really helps to bring the characters alive. I cannot belive how certain critics of this book bashed the writing and wrote it off as amateur prose.
The writing is from the perspectives of a morphine addict burn victim and a possibly schizophrenic chizzler who claims to be over 700 years old!
But I suppose the author should try harder next time to appease the Entertainment Weekly book critic Gods.
Simply put, if you miss books with intelligence AND plot, disregard the chic' postmodern snobs, and read this book.
It will not let you down....more info
Different...but in a good way This story grabbed me from the first page. I love that the main character is flawed, snarky and unapologetic for it and reading about his development through the book is intriguing. I loved the mini love stories throughout the book as well. A different kind of book, but enjoyable from the beginning!...more info
Can't get it out of my head The title of my review is "Can't get it out of my head." Wasn't that a song by the 70's rock band ELO? Sorry I digress. It is true however. I have read several books since reading The Gargoyle, but they have all paled in comparison to this writer's first novel. To this day I continue to remember passages or stories from this exceptionally fine novel that will not leave my memory. This book is like nothing you have read before. I am a voracious reader, and this one is definitely one of my all time favorites. This novel takes literature and spins it on its axis the same way that Neil Gaiman did with "American Gods" or the way that Clive Barker did it with "The Great and Secret Show." It is unconventional, beautiful, grotesque, and profound all at once. My girlfriend loved it so much that she has a journal that she is writing out her favorite passages because she found them so telling about unconditional love, kindness and human nature. This book is highly recommended, no matter what type of book you are used to reading. As I was reading the book I couldn't help but wonder who would be the first to buy the rights to make this into a film. With today's technology, it would be very possible to do, however the lyrical and humorous quality of the writing would be impossible to duplicate....more info
Conspicuous Construction It is a great story. The problems lie in the telling. The writing is excruciatingly self-conscious and, right from the beginning when the narrator tells us, "I've never written a book before," I was unable to buy into the quasi-autobiographical metafiction angle. The elaborate fonts also seem ridiculous. That said, the book is adequately diverting if the reader can also get over the constant butting-in by the narrator. The author could also have served us better by allowing his seven years of research to merge, unobtrusively, with the narrative. He does not. The meticulous details constantly draw attention to themselves. The Gargoyle also contains some rather absurd imagery and, to risk being considered a tightly-laced schoolmarm, more than a forgivable number of grammatical errors. Far from hailing it as "an international literary sensation," I would rate it no higher than a darn good read. An "Inferno for our times" it is not....more info
A Novel Menagerie's Perspective on THE GARGOYLE This novel is a bit difficult to describe, in terms of a story-line... at least, for me. This novel has a main story, which is the tale of the narrator (I don't think we ever get his name). He was a "porno" star, drug addict, very dark and obviously unhappy man. One night, high on drugs, he's driving a windy road and suffers a haleucination of a "flight of arrows" coming towards him. To avoid the arrows, he crashes off of the road and heads down a ravine. The car catches fire and he nearly dies.... but, the car eventually falls into a creek and he is saved by the water.
He undergoes extensive treatment in a burn-ward of a hospital. There, we meet several of his doctors and nurses, who become an integral part of the main story line. My favorite of the group is Sayuri, his Japanese physical therapist. During his very long and painful stay, he meets Marianne Engel, a patient from the "psych" ward. He believes her to be schizophrenic or bi-polar, after concluding that she is not an actress nor a "porno stalker." She is an interesting creature, this Marianne Engel... covered in tattoos, her backside is depicted on the cover of the book. She is eccentric and beautiful... and mysterious and crazy. Nevertheless, the reader grows to love her... as does the narrator.
Mariane Engel visits the narrator throughout his recovery and helps to nurse him back to health in more ways than one. In this duration, she tells him stories. These "side-stories" in the book were, by far, my most favorite part of the novel. They were all great, but I loved Sei's story (see video below) the best! The Viking one, not too shabby!
The narrator makes his way out of the hospital and moves in with Marianne Engel, who claims to have been alive since the 1300's. Apparently, she was given thousands of hearts by God, and it wasn't until she'd given all of them away that she could return to heaven. The last of the hearts would belong to her true love and she must give it to him and he must release it back to her. Marianne is a stone-carver and makes her living carving gargoyles and the like. Of course, she has crazy amounts of cash money and is able to take on the financial burden of caring for him. In her care-taking of him, she continues to tell him about those "side stories," now which include the story of their love in a past life.
I'd rather not give the ending away by continuing my rendition of the story-line. But, the narrator has to overcome many obstacles to find his way to true happiness. You see, while he was in the hospital, the only dream he had was to kill himself as soon as he was released. As horrible as his life was before the accident, he now viewed himself as a monster and less than a man (he lost his "P" in the accident). What the narrator learned was that, while his physical appearance and ability was completely shot, he actually became alive and happy for the first time in his life after the accident. All that he had before was physical beauty... but not an ounce of joy. Now, not an ounce of physical beauty, but a heart that was full.
The author and DoubleDay have a wonderful site with many resources that tie to the novel. I might spend some more time there reading up on the historical data beneath this novel. It is obvious that Davidson spent an incredible amount of time in the research phases of this debut novel. On the site, there are questions for book clubs/readers:
For Discussion: Throughout each liaison, how do the novel's lovers honor their fate? They realize that they are dying in the name of true love.
For Discussion: The Gargoyle begins with arguably one of the most stunning opening scenes in contemporary literature. How was the author able to make horrifying details alluring? What was your initial reaction to these images? I was very visually connected to the author's description of the crash and the fire. For me, it was totally engrossing and I couldn't put the book down. Although, I understand from other reviewers that they were repulsed by the opening.
There is much, much more that I can write about this novel... however, the reader's journey in this book is such a personal one that I find it best to end the review here. God, heaven, hell, the devil, love, life, death, faith, and the lack thereof, are all major concepts in this work. Therefore, it is within the mind of the reader that this book breathes life into... it's a journey for you to take on your own.
My favorite quotes from the novel:
"No, it's the opposite. I'm a vessel that water is poured into and splashes out of. It's a circle, a flowing circle between God and the gargoyles and me, because that is what God is-a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."
"Skin is the dividing line between people, where you end and others begin. But in sex, all that changes. If skin is a fence that divides people, sex is the gate that opens your body to the other person."
"Some day soon," Lance said, "you'll walk out of here and have to decide how you're going to live the rest of your lives. Will you be defined by what other people see, or by the essence of your soul?"
"Any man who believes he can describe love," I answered, "understands nothing about it."
On the Sher's "Out of Ten" Scale (ten being the best), I'd give this book an 8.75-9! The only trouble I had in the book was the journey with getting the serpent out...
Details Details Details I haven't gotten this involved in a novel since I read The Descent. Excellent read. Great detail. Mentally stimulating. Loved it. I'll anxiously await Andrew's next adventure. ...more info
A Great Surprise in Storytelling The beginning is gruesome, yes, but get over it. This is an absorbing tale of a man that has a lot more to his history than he could have ever imagined. I love mad people, like Marianne, especially when they turn out to be a good kind of mad. Stories within stories, there's a lot to like in this book. Actually, all of it. This is not the type of book I would normally pick up, but a friend handed it to me in Waterstone's and I was glad I walked out with it. I paid for it, of course. I'd hate to be burned by that....more info
LOVED THIS BOOK This is a fantastic book. I have to say this is one of my favorite books....or what my friends and I would call an island book....one of the books you would get to take to a deserted island with you. I could read it over and over....such phenominal details, filled with excrutiating pain and suffering. I love the tragedy part of the book....all the decisions each character has to make to move on to the next part of their lives. There is a flow to the book which leads you through each of their lives to bring it all to an end....more info
Excellent What a fantastic, well-researched, romantic book. It's like nothing else out there, and well worth reading....more info
Brilliant Sentences The Gargoyle is a book I would wish upon my worst enemy. The great parts of this book is the immaculate prose. As having a B.A. in English myself, I envied the authors obvious talents at writing the best sentences I have ever read. Sentence after sentence is expertly written and at times, brilliant. I took creative writing classes trying to pull that out of myself, alas no one, not my professors, not my fellow students and sadly not myself could come up with anything close to the beauty of Mr. Davidson's poetic sentences.
That said, I recommend this book only if you really want to read amazing sentences that flow like a clear, sparkling creek that makes your mouth water when you come upon it - but that's it.
Someone should have warned me about this beforehand and I'm warning you now, this is not a spoiler, it's the truth. If I bought a book titled, "The Vampire," I would expect a vampire. "The Cult", a cult. "Wuthering Heights", Wuthering Heights... There are no gargoyles in this book!!!! (Just statues that the female lead sculpts, but she could have been a chef too and he could have named it "The Chef." I was in the mood for something supernatural and a book about gargoyles sounded fun. I got anything but fun. I got an amazingly written book about a man who had a horrible childhood who turned into a handsome man, who resembles the author, amazingly enough, who then becomes a porno star and snorts his life into oblivion and then is burned beyond all recognition and loses everything, even his way ability to make a living in the porno industry. Fun stuff. Loved the burn imaging, brilliant, but then it, where's the gargoyle? Oh, it's a metaphor, right.
Then this beautiful woman comes to save him and tells him stories of couples who die - unhappily ever after, there's even something for bi-sexuals and gays, so he took care to include everyone. So bi-sexual, gay or straight - they all die and die horrible deaths. Then it goes into a whole Dante's Inferno and the Godhead. Godhead, Inferno, Godhead, Inferno....over and over. I never read the Inferno and now I never want to. Too much was spent on that book. Would he have been able to write Gargoyle without Dante's Inferno - the answer is no, because the book seems to be about Dante's Inferno and lovers who love eternally but die horrible deaths quickly after meeting.
Years ago I read The Celestine Prophecy. Part of the book also seems to take cues from that also. And the ending was just so predictable I really was amazed he actually went there. Anyway, great sentences, bad story, too much borrowing from other tales. The well must be running dry. This experience left me so empty that I think I now must start downloading books so that I will have something new, immediately, to take the sour taste out of my mouth when I read such books as this one. At least Amazon will make more money from me now....more info
Great Story! I really enjoyed this book. I do have to say that the first 75-100 pages are difficult to get through however do press on. Once it gets going the story is wonderful. I would definitely recommend this book....more info
Beautiful, disturbing, unique. Highly recommended. If you created a 'content wish list' for a book - this book would probably epitomise everything on that list . There is nothing lacking or nothing more needed in this book. Beautuful, evocative, thought-provoking, intense, discturbing, chilling, thrilling. Simply put, amazingly difficult to review due to its stunning complexity. The characters are deep and familiar, the imagery is awesome leading your mind to places you wouldnt think it would ever want to visit yet leaving you astounded at the writer's visionary approach. If you love clever, fresh and contemporary fiction that urges you to suspend your disbelief whilst remaining within the realms of realistic possibility, this is the book you need to read at once. Faultless. Brilliant. Well Done Andrew Davidson. What's next?...more info
Please book club, not another book like this Over the top absurd plot, over the top writing, characters no sane person should identify with, loaded with factiods about stuff nobody cares about, and mostly BORING......though I have never read one, I have a feeling that this book is about one click better than your average romance novel and unfortunately twice as long....more info
The Gargoyle This is a great read. The amount of details and wonderful characters made this book a real pleasure to read. It kept me on the edge of my seat. Sure hope the author gets busy on his next book!...more info
OMG This is the most non-traditional love story I have ever read. Very disturbing yet beautiful. I do not want to give any clues. Just sit back and read this book. ...more info
some what of a drag. After reading some of the reviews i still purchased this book, I was a bit disappointed. This book drags on for a while before it gets to the good stuff and even then it still leaves the reader with unanswered questions. All the little stories that are included in the MAIN story where more interesting than the main characters developement into the story. I gave it 3 stars because it does have some creativity to it....more info
Different but good This was a new author to me and I guess it is his first book as well. I read the reviews and was not disappointed. It is different than what I usually read, but I found it very interesting....more info