‘The Gargoyle’ – Andrew Davidson
A young man is fighting for his life. Into his room walks a bewitching woman who believes she can save him. Their journey will have you believing in the impossible. The nameless and beautiful narrator of The Gargoyle 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 wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. His life is over – he is now a monster. But in fact it is only just beginning. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly burned mercenary and she was a nun and a scribe who nursed him back to health in the famed monastery of Engelthal. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love.
I don’t think I could sum it up any better. Trust me, the book just sucks you in from the beginning and before you know it, an hour has passed, and you’re already well into the story. Whether it is because of the intriguing first person narrative or the structure of the chapters which are in relatively short sections, once you get started you find yourself wanting to read on more and more.
This writer has definitely done his research into German history, religion and burns victims and mental disorders. It comes across as such a convincing tale yet so fantastical at the same time that the different plots just draw you in. The writer cleverly shifts between present day and Marianne’s 14th century tale, interspersed with wonderful love stories that just remove you from the weirdness that the book has running through it.
I’ve mentioned the ‘weird’ of this novel a couple of times now, let me elaborate a bit further. For starters, the narrator is quite graphic, both about his personal life and his sufferings from the accident. The descriptions in the opening of the novel are just something else and it is this style that catches your breath throughout. Secondly, it is difficult not to forget that the narrator is, basically, a drug addict. So as the story progresses, you are always wondering whether this tale is a product of his morphine-induced hallucinations (which, incidentally, are not played upon by the writer). Finally, because the development of the plot is so unusual and removed, you are left sincerely believing that Marianne’s tale is true.
I was gripped right from the beginning and it didn’t take me long to absorb the story. Yes, it is quite bizarre, but I truly think this is a book where you have to force yourself to be lost in the narrative. Go with the flow and if, like me, you close the book with a sigh of satisfaction, then you know that you have just read an intense, unusual, yet thoroughly good story.