Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Gargoyle

The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davidson
Canongate, 2009 (UK paperback version)
499 pages

After I finished reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I made several trips to Barnes & Noble, Borders, and my local library looking for my next book. While I found lots of interesting candidates, none was as interesting as a book I had just received in the mail from across the Big Pond. I got my paperback copy of The Gargoyle from Amazon.co.uk, which even with international shipping, cost me less than a hardcover, currently the only version available here at home. As soon as I opened the box (which took a mere 5 days to get to me after I placed my order), The Gargoyle called to me like a siren. I knew it would be my next book.

Ironically, it's not so much about gargoyles as it is . . . love. Yet it's not a Romance novel. Actually, it's quite difficult to place this book into a genre. OK, so maybe there are Romance elements, but also Historical, Contemporary, and even Fantasy. It's a magical book, featuring some of the most unlikely and yet memorable characters to come along in a really long time. The main character (now that I'm thinking back, does he even have a name? The book is told in first person. Honestly, I cannot remember if he is named) is a former porn star and producer of blue movies who, in the opening chapter, is badly burned in a car accident. The description of the accident and of the resulting burn treatment is not for the faint of heart. But hang in there, I promise . . . it will be worth it.

The story really takes off when the "other" main character is introduced. Marianne Engel is a successful sculptress (she sculpts gargoyle-like creatures) who bounces into our storyteller's hospital room one day and begins to mesmerize him with tales of their long ago life and love. Long ago, as in the fourteenth century. Of course, at the time they meet in the present day, Marianne is also a "guest" in the hospital . . . in the psych ward. But our main character is fascinated by his visitor, who tells amazing, timeless stories of her life in medieval Germany but also of other times and places: Italy, Japan, Iceland, England. How is it possible that this woman tells such realistic stories? Or that she speaks fluent German, Latin, Italian, and Japanese? Could it be that she really is seven hundred years old? (And hey, I promise you, there are no vampires in this book.)

The secondary characters are equally well-developed, like the Japanese physical therapist who works with our main character; Marianne Engel's manager; and a dog named Bougatsa (after the Greek pastry). While love is the major "theme" of the book ("Love is as strong as death, and hard as hell" graces the front cover of my paperback), there are other themes, like good vs. evil, head vs. heart, duty vs. destiny, faith vs. logic, etc. Dante's Inferno plays a role - ironic, since the main character is a burn victim. I'm sure there's lots of other stuff I could point out here, but it would be better for you to just read the book.

I enjoyed The Gargoyle so much that I read it slowly on purpose. Why? Because I didn't want it to end. And neither will you. Go get it now. 

Rating: 5 stars  . . . YES! 5 stars!!!