The Gargoyle is a difficult book to review and summarize. The plot crosses many genre lines and deals with many issues. That said, here is my attempt.
The novel begins with the narrator getting in a car accident after bingeing on liquor and cocaine. He has a bottle of bourbon between his legs at the time and him and his car go up in flames. He is burned over most of his body and is in a hospital burn unit for a very long time.
Marianne Engel, a famous sculptress of gargoyles, shows up on his unit one day and tells him that they were lovers in medieval Germany. She claims that he was a mercenary and that she was a scribe. He doesn’t really much faith in this claim, but is mesmerized by Marianne.
When he was ready to be released from the hospital he was still going to need continuous care. Normally he would have been sent to a rehab centre, however Marianne volunteers to take him into her home. She has the resources for him to get the care he needs.
This book is richly layered with many themes and symbolism. It is not a book to be read quickly, but rather slowly and contemplatively. One of the major themes is of redemption and there are many references to Dante’s Inferno in it.
This book is not for the faint of heart. The burns that the nameless narrator goes through and many other aspects are vividly outlined. Though I don’t normally like a book with much gore, it is needed in this book. It’s not there to purposely shock the reader, but to inform.
I really liked this book. It has a lot to keep the reader interested and is well researched and written. The stories that Marianne tells are very engaging and were my favorite part of the book.
I only have one complaint. Throughout the book the author refers to Marianne by her full name, Marianne Engel. Her entire name appears several times on the same page. Though this doesn’t ruin the book, it is a distraction, at least for me. I have no idea if this was intentional, though for what purpose I can’t fathom or if is was in need of better editing. That said, I did read an advance reading copy, so maybe in the final version published this was fixed. I sure hope so.
I highly recommend The Gargoyle and look forward to reading more from Andrew Davidson.
Thanks to Doubleday for sending an advance reading copy of this book!