Tuesday, August 26, 2008

a review of "The Gargoyle"

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Once again, it seems that I am destined to swim against the tide to some degree with my latest review. Am I destined to dislike every book loved by all others? Oh, the burden of it all...lol

It has been several weeks since I finished “The Gargoyle” but I needed to give my opinion a bit of time to form completely. And I will admit that I looked about and read some of the other numerous reviews out there. There were things I agreed with, but more that I disagreed with. Because while it seems the majority of the reviews have been very positive, I had my reservations.

At first, I was rather caught up in the story. And it is a grand story in many ways. Some have said that they found our Narrator, whose name we never learn, an unlikable character. And on the surface there seems reason for that. He is a man who describes himself as having only one talent, that of a porn actor. Although he is quite successful as a drinker and a cocaine addict as well, with a burgeoning career as a producer of porn films also. Not your typical hero. But in fact I found him quite likable, with a very realistic understanding of himself and a great, if cynical, sense of humor. Our narrator undergoes a terrible fate at the beginning of the book. In a cocaine induced hallucination, he crashes his car and is terribly burned. In fact, the one asset that has been integral to his career is burned off. Again, some had an issue with the description of his burn treatments, while I found it all rather fascinating.

He awakens to find himself in the burn ward of the hospital, with everything he had gone. His beauty, his money, his friends are gone, and he is left only with unbearable pain and a future as frightening as others find his countenance. To a degree, it is understandable that he spends his days planning the perfect suicide.
Until one day, a strange woman arrives to visit him. A psychiatric patient, a successful sculptor of gargoyles and, according to her account, his lover since they first met in 14th century Germany. He does not believe her story, but since he has no one else willing to care for him upon his release, he goes with her to her house, where she works in the basement, frantically carving her creations. Between her multi days long carving sessions, she tells him stories, of what she says is the history of their love through the centuries and the stories of four other groups of lovers, in 14th-century Italy, Victorian England, medieval Japan and Viking Scandinavia. Her stories attempt to have us suspend our disbelieve, to accept the possibility in the possibility that she is not just mad, but that in fact, they have been in love for centuries.

Now, I think that the four stories are quite good in and of themselves. His writing, his descriptions, at times, can be compelling, the 'journey' through the Dante's Inferno inspired Hell, fascinating, and the story of the lovers that she claims they once were, very interesting. I am willing to suspend my disbelief about the whole issue of those missing centuries....it is the love that he supposedly rediscovers with Marianne in the present that I never quite buy. The evidence is just not there for me.
And I can't help but feel that the entire middle portion of the book could have benefited from the judicial use of an editors red pen. After the compelling description of his injuries and rehab, which are, yes, a wee bit gruesome, the rather vague musing of much of the middle of the book seems rather tedious as I waited for something, anything to happen.

I read somewhere that the book sold for $1.25 million in the United States alone. That is a great deal of money for what I though was ultimately a fairly entertaining, rather interesting story but ultimately a somehow lacking and overdone book.
No doubt, Andrew David­son is a very talented writer and I have hopes that with his next book he, and his editor, will reign that talent a bit more under control.


  1. I think some of the middle do seem a bit weaker than the rest, but I also think this section was necessary to understand the character's growth. Without it, we'd all be screaming how Davidson made his narrator wake up one day doing a 180.

    It's interesting to read dissenters' reviews. I also found the science of the treatment fascinating, but then again I loved the whole thing.

    Thanks for sharing your review :-)

  2. a dissenter! I must say that I like the title...lol

    yes, I can see the point that the middle should have been the place where we say the development of the relationship and the growth of the Narrator. I, for all the many, many pages, did not really see it there, I am sad to say.

  3. I love this book, but it's great to read a different perspective. We all like something different - that's why there are so many books out there.

  4. liked it...didn't love it...but will love to see what he writes next.

  5. Just found your review via librarything. It's nice to see someone else with the same thoughts I had on this book, notably the fact that narrator wasn't dislikeable and that the present relationship between Marianne and the narrator wasn't well developed. Those were my two major problems with the book. I liked the narrator in the beginning, he had a lot of facets to himself. I did grow to dislike him through the book, but I think they could be because of how I felt his ‘love’ with Marianne was imposed on me, like the fact that they were a man and a woman and she cared for him meant it had to be true love, which I don’t buy. I could just never believe that they were in love with each other in the present time.

    Though I have to say I didn't like the Dante sequence, I think it would be greatly benefited from some of that lovely crisp description we had of the burns from the first few chapters. It felt a little vague and watered down to me. The ending felt a little heavy handed too, if it had been left more open I think it would have left me feeling happier about the entire thing.

    Anyway, it's good to know I'm not entirely alone in not being this book's biggest fan. Thank you :)

  6. aww....you will take away my 'dessenter' title. Or I will share it.

    the more I think about it, it does come down to the fact that for all the stories and all the good writing...I read nothng to make me believe the center of the book, this great love of Marianne and the narrator.

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