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 suicidefor 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 lifeand, 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 completeand 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.
Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.
It was Good Friday and the stars were just starting to dissolve into the dawn. As I drove, I stroked the scar on my chest, by habit. My eyes were heavy and my vision unfocused, not surprising given that Id spent the night hunched over a mirror snorting away the bars of white powder that kept my face trapped in the glass. I believed I was keening my reflexes. I was wrong.
To one side of the curving road was a sharp drop down the mountains slope, and on the other was a dark wood. I tried to keep my eyes fixed ahead but I had the overwhelming feeling that something was waiting to ambush me from behind the trees, perhaps a troop of mercenaries. Thats how drug paranoia works, of course. My heart hammered as I gripped the steering wheel more tightly, sweat collecting at the base of my neck.
Between my legs I had wedged a bottle of bourbon, which I tried to pull out for another mouthful. I ...
The Gargoyle is, above all, entertaining. Davidson's work of seven years is the kind of pleasure reading that is hard to find: fantasy and suspense combined with intelligent research and strong writing. The pace slows a bit too much during some of Marianne's narrative diversions but, on the whole, the novel is a successful page turner. The Gargoyle is sometimes raw, sometimes delicately detailed. It offers a modern and historic love story that, though predicable, cannot be called conventional and a rogue narrator that manages to win over the reader despite his bad behavior.
(Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
Full Review (513 words).
Grotesques vs Gargoyles
The theme of the grotesque is prominent in The Gargoyle. Marianne, a stone carver, educates the narrator on the difference between gargoyles and grotesques: A gargoyle is a decorated water spout, from the French word gargouille from which the verb gargle originates; whereas a grotesque can be decorative or weight supporting, but is never a water spout. The Cornell University Library provides a good summation on the topic and a gallery of gargoyles and grotesques, while this website provides a leisurely video tour around the grotesques of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
The grotesque in literature brings to mind...
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