30 Sep 2011
Review: "The Gargoyle"
Do you know that feeling of picking up a book and starting reading it without having any expectations or any ideas about what the book is about? That's how I felt when I started reading "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. My sister had recommended it but not told me about the story so I was completely open when I read it and I liked that feeling of having no expectations and just going along with the story told by a cynical, bitter narrator eager to draw the reader into his own black world (and I mean that in the best possible sense).
It is a scary story - really scary. A man in his thirties is driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs and when the hallucinations start getting to him, he loses his grip on the car and ends up in a horrible and painful accident. When he wakes up, he is in the hospital, in intensive care for burn victims and life has he knows it is no longer. He whole life is now the burn ward and the nurses and doctors that treat him and the day when he is able to leave the burn ward and go back to life is far off. Especially because the narrator makes it very clear that he doesn't think there is any life to go back to. Having made a living working in the porn industry, his looks are now ruined and his friends have disappeared. His loneliness is tangible through the pages and I felt it in every word as I read.
Then one day a mentally unstable patient from the psychiatric ward appears in his room. Marianne Engel is a sculptress whose speciality is gargoyles and who tells him about his long life and her years in a convent in medieval Germany. Her stories are wild and impossible but it is clear that she believes them and as time passes, Marianne's stories become as much a part of the narrators life as they are of hers.
On amazon.com they call it "An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time." The book refers quite a bit to Dante's Divine Comedy, especially Inferno and if you have any interest in medieval history, you will enjoy this book. The love story is strong, especially because it is so strange and crooked - the love is not a teenage crush or a love-at-first-sight feeling. It is a painful memory of sharing yourself with somebody else. A bond between two people who don't seem to know what to make of each other. It is beautiful yet painful - a pain that even morphine can't dampen.
So what did I think of this story? Well, I liked it but giving you a picture of all that I thought and felt when reading this book is probably impossible because I went from laughing at Marianne's strange behaviour, feeling the narrators bitterness, being sad for his pain and intrigued by the budding love. This is an emotional rollercoaster but in a good way.
Read it if: You believe that love is more than just a happy, pink bubble of delight. If you like having your imagination put to work and if you like wondering what is really going on.