Summary and book reviews of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle

by Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Book Summary

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—for 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—and, 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—and 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.

I.

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 I’d 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 mountain’s 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. That’s 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THIS GUIDE Whether you read The Gargoyle with a book group or as a solo experience, this is a novel rich with topics for further exploration. Incorporating legends and locales drawn from a medieval monastery, Viking raiders, Victorian England, feudal Japan, Italian literary masterpieces, and other imaginative threads, Andrew Davidson weaves copious history into this singular love story. This guide is designed to illuminate many of those details, yielding facts behind the fiction while raising questions for contemplation or discussion. An interview with the author is included as well, revealing surprising aspects of the story behind The Gargoyle. We hope this supplement will enhance your enjoyment of Davidson’s captivating saga. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (513 words).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly - Gregory Kirschling

This much-hyped book is eye-bulgingly atrocious, packed with medieval history to disguise prose that's worse than your average Dungeons & Dragons blog.

New York Times - Janet Maslin

At the start of The Gargoyle, a transportingly unhinged debut novel by Andrew Davidson, the book’s caustic narrator explains the fiery accident that destroyed what had once been his extremely beautiful body.

So for all those who enter here, there is no need to abandon hope. Lessons are learned, love is found, spirits are restored, and faith is revealed, all in the overheated cauldron of Mr. Davidson’s imagination.

Kirkus Reviews

A romance spanning centuries and continents finds a grotesque narrator redeemed by the love of a woman who claims they first met seven centuries earlier, in this deliriously ambitious debut novel. This spellbinding narrative [is] a credit to the craftsmanship of the Canadian writer

Publishers Weekly

"Once launched into this intense tale of unconventional romance, few readers will want to put it down."

Library Journal

Storytelling at its finest, featuring a lively assortment of characters and events that combine in a gripping drama that will keep readers’ attention through the very last page. An essential summer book; highly recommended.

Reader Reviews

joe

loved it
This book was a real good read, one of the best I've ever read. The constant hooks, the reality of being chared in a fire, the stages of hell were all just awesome

Anike

Creepy good!
I absolutely loved the story! It is dark and strange but draws you in as if you are looking into someone's intimate life and know you should look away but you can't stop staring. Can't wait to read his next book!

Elizabeth

Different, but good
"Everyone's past, I try to rationalize, is nothing more than the collection of memories they choose to remember"...pages 487 and 488...paperback edition. A porn star burned in a car crash, a wealthy schizophrenic, undying friendships, ...   Read More

GrannyGrad

Mesmerizing
I can't quite understand the one bad review, as this is absolutely one of the best books I've read lately...and I've read plenty of good books. The characters are well-defined, the plot is different from anything I've ever read before, and it is so ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

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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