The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
To read or not to read, that is the questions I have when I begin a book that I am not too sure about. This dichotomy can be a tough thorn in the mind of many readers whom find a book that excites them and then find out that the beginning of the book is not at all what they thought it would be. I hate quitting in the middle of a book, but it happens. A bad book is a bad book and sometimes it is a waste of reading opportunity to finish a bad book just because you do not want to quit reading it.
I found this book, The Gargoyle, at the same time that I found The Thirteenth Tale. As you may have read, I loved The Thirteenth Tale, which I read first. It was easy to get into and easy to finish. The Gargoyle was entirely different beast. After reading the first fifty pages I was convinced that this was not a book for me. Though the first fifty are engaging, interesting and well written, there is a high level of the gruesome and the gritty. The book opens with one of the two main characters, whom is also the narrator, involved in a horrible car accident and details his recovery from his awful burns. But it was not the gruesome that turned me away; it was the victim of the accident. When I read a story I have one simple rule: I must like the main character. This doesn’t mean that the main character needs to be a good person or an honorable person. They need to be someone who, whether good or bad, I want to know more about. So I nearly walked away from this book, but before I gave up I read this online review. Thank goodness I did.
The review recommended this book to anyone who enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind, I stuck with The Gargoyle and it makes me sad to think that I nearly put the book down and did not read this wonderful story. I am impressed that this is Andrew Davidson’s first novel as the layers of the story are connected in a masterful way that may not, as I am proof, be apparent in the beginning. To reiterate, this novel is about a man who is horribly burned in a car crash that for the most part is entirely his fault, but also part of his fate.
While recovering from his burns that are so deep they have burnt away the nerves, the unnamed man narrator
meets a woman named Marianne Engel. Marianne is a world renown sculptress who does not so much carve gargoyles, but rather frees them from their stone prisons. As she explains, each gargoyle tells her who it is and how is shall be. (The scenes of her freeing the gargoyles are superb and feel like a sorceress communicating with otherworldly forces as she reaches in to the mist and returns with a new creature.) It is thanks to her that the narrator, who is said to resemble a grotesque gargoyle, is able to not only recover from his burns, but to survive in his new life that is not only physically painful. With his flesh, his life was burned away and now he must find a new reason to breath. As Marianne repeats what was once told to her,
“That which is painful sharpens one’s love.”
Like The Thirteenth Tale, this is a story about stories. The narrator tells of how he was burned and how he met Marianne, but she tells him stories of another life. Her stories create the background to his recovery and the love that does not only grow between them, but was already there. Mixed in into the plot are several side stories of other cases of historical love that add to the story of their own. I enjoyed the addition of these side short stories that are quite touching. This is a great book and one that will read again someday.