The Gargoyle by Andrew DavidsonThe Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle

byAndrew Davidson

Paperback | June 23, 2009

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An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

On a burn ward, a man lies between living and dying, so disfigured that no one from his past life would even recognize him. His only comfort comes from imagining various inventive ways to end his misery. Then a woman named Marianne Engel walks into his hospital room, a wild-haired, schizophrenic sculptress on the lam from the psych ward upstairs, who insists that she knows him – that she has known him, in fact, for seven hundred years. She remembers vividly when they met, in another hospital ward at a convent in medieval Germany, when she was a nun and he was a wounded mercenary left to die. If he has forgotten this, he is not to worry: she will prove it to him.

And so Marianne Engel begins to tell him their story, carving away his disbelief and slowly drawing him into the orbit and power of a word he'd never uttered: love.

From the Hardcover edition.
Andrew Davidson grew up in Pinawa, Manitoba, and graduated in 1995 from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in English literature. He has worked as a teacher of English in Japan, where he has lived on and off since the late 1990s, and as a writer of English lessons for Japanese websites. The Gargoyle, the product of seven ye...
Title:The GargoyleFormat:PaperbackDimensions:496 pages, 8.2 × 5.51 × 1.03 inPublished:June 23, 2009Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307356787

ISBN - 13:9780307356789


Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my Top Faves of All Time This book made me cry actual tears. Extremely captivating and moving. The best part is, it is a beautiful story overall that contains smaller, beautiful short stories within it. I finished this book in 3 days. Unputdownable. 5/5
Date published: 2018-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful and captivating This is my favourite book. In the end it teaches us all a lesson that many learn the hard way. It's about a man who needs to lose everything in order to discover what really matters in life - love. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recommended to me by a friend Sweet and sad, a page turner to the end. I think I'll reread it this summer.
Date published: 2018-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful & haunting This was completely not what I expected. It was more. It's a hauntingly beautiful tragic love story and one that I need to read again soon (I read it years ago and still love it).
Date published: 2018-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favourite book ever! I loved this book, It is my favourite book even years later. Andrew Davidson spins this story that is romantic, heartfelt, beautiful and in some cases hard to read. I recommend this book to all my friends
Date published: 2018-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a Journey The Gargoyle is a captivating novel from the very first page. It embodies many stories at once that are beautifully interwoven. What is unique in this novel is that the author writes about his own writing process for the novel in the novel. It is a novel about love, it is a a novel about love and the will to live, it is a novel about spiritual reincarnation, it is about God and karma. I initially borrowed this novel from the library and after the first reading knew that it needed to be purchased.
Date published: 2018-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A journey of love This book was beautifully written and always makes me cry whenever I read it. It's such a beautiful love story that isn't cliche or overdone. Highly underrated book. This is one book that needs to be read at least once.
Date published: 2018-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A masterpiece of a book It's about a man, orphaned at birth and raised by meth addicts who eventually blew up their house. Later he becomes a porn star to make ends meet on the street and is now in the hospital with burns over most of his body. While he is lying in the hospital bed he is thinking of ways to kill himself. This woman comes along and swears she's known him for 700 years. She tells him this is the 3rd time he's been burned and knows how he got the scar on his chest. She tells him stories of dragons and monks, then she proceeds to tell him stories about the various lives they've met in. I found myself lost within the stories. It's a story about eternal life, of souls meeting with each other time and again. The author did a great job tying the stories together into a tight knot. This book is graphic but it had to be, or it wouldn't be a powerful read. I recommend reading this novel.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Book Totally Destroyed Me A VERY romantic, strange read. I loved it, couldn't put it down. It made me cry, soul-wrenching from my gut gross sobbing. Beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough.
Date published: 2017-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Liked it Different but worth the read.
Date published: 2017-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You'll know if you'll love it in the first 5 pages... Someone said this to me about this book, and they were right! Andrew Davidson's style of writing pulls you in from the beginning, keeping you hooked with mystery/intrigue and an unconventional romance. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THIS IS ONE OF MY FAV!! I couldnt believe how amazing this book was, this is at the top of my list for sure. I have read it 3x at this point and will totally go back at it again. My bestie told me about this book and let me tell you it is morbid, it is romantic and so much more. It gives you a whole new perspective on life. love the twists in the relationships that the two main characters had in the past and present. Totally worth the read!!#plumreview
Date published: 2017-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fav Ever Read! This is by far my favorite book! I love the concept of passed lives and the complication of the relationship between the main characters. The ending is great! I've reread this book many times and have recommended it to friends/family #plumreview
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dramatic This book is as dramatic as it comes. I read it with my heart in my throat the whole time. The protagonist (can you call him a protagonist if he is not that nice of a person?) had so many elements to him that you just wanted to keep going. I was sad when this one was over.
Date published: 2017-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A new story everytime I read this book back in High School when a friend of mine who usually doesn't read practically threw it my way. I'm glad he did! It has since then become a part of my annual reading, and my favourite book by far! Every time I pick it up I notice something new, and I love that most of all about this book. It has so many takes on what love could be and takes your heart on an interesting journey. A definite must read!
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Blew my Mind I read this book in high school and could not put it down. This is one of the few books in my life that left an impact on me. Over and over again it broke my heart but I cannot truthfully say it has a sad ending. This is one book I recommend to anyone who asks me what they should read.
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One for the bookshelf If your going to be picking and choosing which books to keep on your bookshelf to read over and over again, this is one of them. A great book that takes the idea of undying love and really puts it to the test. I loved the way we peeked into different cultures and times to show many different ways in which love can be found and expressed.
Date published: 2017-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I really enjoyed reading this. I've never read anything quite like it. It was fully absorbing and I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engrossing This is definitely one of the best books I have read in a really long time. I love it when you read a book and you just get completely absorbed by it. This was definitely the case for me with The Gargoyle. I think what I loved most about this book was the story telling. I LOVED each new tale that Marianne Engel had to tell. It was almost like reading a fairytale book or the tales of the Arabian nights. It had me mesmerized and I couldn’t put it down! The only reason it didn’t get a full 5 stars was because I found it dragged a little at the end. Other than that it was stellar! I would definitely recommend it if you are looking to be completely sucked into a book. You know in the “forget to eat, forget to sleep” kind of way
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved this book! Read it a couple of years ago but couldn't put it down
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 2 loose ends ?? I really enjoyed this book but I found 2 loose ends that bothered me. Who was the female that he met at the airshow and how did Marianne find him?
Date published: 2015-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 2 loose ends ?? I really enjoyed this book but I found 2 loose ends that bothered me. Who was the female that he met at the airshow and how did Marianne find him?
Date published: 2015-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Gargole I liked the book, it was full of wonderful tales and imagination. Sad and full of love at the same . Fairy tales and such deep sorrow.
Date published: 2015-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Late night reader. Wonderful read...enjoyed its mysery behind every chapter....made for sleepy mornings....up late reading to see what would happen next...thanks for writing it..
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gargoyle Gripped me right from the start with the car crash description. The book then continued in the same gripping manner with details of his burn treatment, the short stories that were key when you get close to the conclusion. One of those books I will reread and still enjoy.
Date published: 2014-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing, couldn't put it down! This book is one of the best I have read in a long time. The way the author writes is so captivating and descriptive it, it really sucks you into the story. It has the best of historical fiction, medical drama and love story all rolled into one. I would compare the beauty of the writing to Arthur Golden's Memoir's of a Geisha. The primary character is someone that you can't help but connect with and his love interest is just the right amount of whimsical and odd. I would recommend this book without any hesitation to any fiction lover!
Date published: 2014-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating Fantastic book. Gritty,charming,romantic,fanciful...just great
Date published: 2014-09-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson I borrowed this lovely novel from my friend Alannis, and when I asked for her opinion on it she said it was so slow she didn’t even get past the first couple chapters. I feel sorry for my dear friend Alannis. Even though there isn’t a great deal of excitement until you meet Marianne, the first part introduces the character thoroughly, it’s where you get to know him. After Marianne butts her way into the plotline, the reader feels the same fascination with her as the main character does. Her stories to him in the hospital are what weave the novel together and also what kept me intrigued. The writing is very descriptive, especially near the end when things are wrapping up. Some might find parts of the book graphic, but I enjoyed the intense imagery. The best part about The Gargoyle is the constant tipping of a scale. On one side the possibility that Marianne is not insane and her realistic stories were real, on the other side an inevitability that her schizophrenia was the only truth behind them. While reading I found that I believed Marianne whole-heartedly, but Davidson might find points to push you to think otherwise. The first half is definitely not as gripping as the second but I know I made the right choice in picking this up and reading start to finish (Unlike poor Alannis). I’ll give it a 3.5/5. Check out my original blog!
Date published: 2013-08-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I compare it to menopausal women. The Gargoyle is not the book one should read if you are getting back into reading after an almost two year hiatus. I compare it to menopausal women. For a few pages, I’d warm up to the plot only to flip the page and fall face first into freezing cold snow after throwing myself out an open window. Overall, the plot didn’t do it for me. The first person narrative and the fact that we never learn his name, I found to be odd. The first half of the book was quit graphic, but it was necessary so I could feel the pain the main character endured. The second half of the book was a double love story which I really wasn’t interested in. I never really connected with the mysterious Marianne Engel. I got tired of the constant Marianne Engel, Marianne Engel, and Marianne Engel… once a character is introduced, all I need is Marianne. Interesting Quote "If you are like most people, a doorbell rings and you answer it; but for me, it's more complicated. For me, it is a test of will. What if the visitor is a Girl Scout selling cookies? What if she takes one look at me, wets her pants, and faints? How could I explain an unconscious, urine-soaked Girl Scout on my front porch? For someone who looks the way I do, that's pretty much an invitation for the good townspeople to light their torches and chase you to the old windmill." Why did I read this book? The cover art is very neat. The synopsis, I thought to be intriguing. A porn-star recovering from a car accident in which he was burned severely sounded like a very raw story, something I could sink my teeth into. Discovering new authors or authors whose work I never read is always a goal of mine. The fact Andrew Davidson is Canadian was a plus. I wouldn’t recommend The Gargoyle to my friends or family, but I’d never discourage someone from reading something they want to read. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It applies to books too.
Date published: 2012-10-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Wonderful! A man is horribly burned and while recovering meets a woman who tells him they have known each other in another life and begins telling wonderful stories about their past. The story falls a bit flat at the end but the tales the woman weaves are beautiully told and worth the read.
Date published: 2012-10-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A hard read This book isn't for the faint of heart. It was quite raw and graphic with a little too much detail at times. The first section of the book took me awhile to get through because I had to keep putting it down because I was grossed out. I was impressed with how many stories the author could juggle throughout the book and some of the side stories that Marianne tells the narrator were very enjoyable. I hated the ending. Overall I wouldn't recommend it unless you're looking for something very different. It was a tragedy through and through.
Date published: 2012-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and compelling I loved this book and couldn't put it down, it is a page turner from cover to cover and well worth it. My first impression from tha name and the cover was not good, but I was wrong it is an excellent and compelling read, highly reccomended.
Date published: 2012-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my all-time favourite fiction novels! The Gargoyle is an extremely well-written debut novel due to the author’s extraordinary ability to vividly (and at times graphically) illustrate every scene within the novel so that you feel as though you are actually there; I especially enjoyed the ways in which the author used the literary devices of foreshadowing, metaphors and personification to bring his words to life. The unique and intensely engrossing love story around which the plot is centred left me so emotionally involved with the characters and plot development that I couldn’t put the book down. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone in search of a uniquely written and thought-provoking read.
Date published: 2012-06-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Feelings I have always been a big fan of love that transcends time and reality. I knew that was what I was getting with this book. It was a little too graphic for my taste & although I love facts in a book, there were times when I felt like I was reading a medical textbook instead of a novel. The narrator had the right amount of angst and the intellectual snobbery of a person who knew better but who apparently cannot apply it in his reality. Marianne was mysterious and I felt that in their first few encounters that the story was leading up to a startlingly complex and epic twist of fates that set the lovers apart and that would somehow render their seven-hundred-year separation more powerful and devastating but when the turn of events were finally explained, I was mildly disappointed. It didn't quite peak as I had expected it to. It was a little hazy how Marianne was connected to all these people & though I enjoyed the side characters' own little stories, I didn't quite find that they all naturally flowed to one great plot. Nevertheless, there were a lot of subtle things that redeemed the book for me. I loved the quotes. I loved the tug-of-war between the narrator's growing feelings and his logic. I loved that the narrator's character didn't seem overly concerned about being blunt to a point of being offensive. The story certainly succeeded in holding my attention but I do wish parts of it turned out differently. But then, isn't that what makes an interesting book? Having the ability to cause you to imagine alternate scenarios and emotionally responding to how it eventually turns out, good or not. =)
Date published: 2012-04-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This really varied for me. 3.5 stars The unnamed narrator of this book is a drug-addicted porn star, who is in a car crash and is seriously burned. While in the hospital recovering, he only wants to recover enough to go home, then kill himself. Until Marianne Engel, a girl with an obvious mental illness, arrives with stories of the previous lives they shared together. At the beginning of the book, I thought this would make my favourites list this year. The descriptions of the car crash itself, then what happens when a human is burned and the healing process, were absolutely phenomenal, and it hooked me! Unfortunately, Marianne then entered the story, and it went downhill for me. I just couldn't get interested in her stories. Some were good, but mostly I just wasn't interested, nor was I interested in the Dante's Inferno hallucination near the end of the book. I did like the parts where they were in the modern time frame, and I also really liked some of the supporting characters and their stories. Overall, I am giving this a rating of "good", 3.5 stars.
Date published: 2011-11-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting but not quite right In a burn ward a man lays dying. After a horrible car accident he is left covered almost entirely in severe burns. Slowly but surely he signs away his company to pay for his treatment, his friends disappear and his addiction to morphine continues to grow. He's begins to contemplate ending it all when a women appears in his room one day and changes everything. Her name is Marianne Engel and she claims that she has lived for over seven hundred years. If that wasn't crazy enough she also claims that they first met in medieval Germany, where she was studying to become a nun and he was left at their monastery to heal after a particularly vicious battle. As she begins to tell him the tale of how they met and later fell in love, he is sure that she is crazy. A schizophrenic who has wandered down from the psych ward. But he feels oddly comforted by her presence, so he lets her continue. Little does he know, that this women is about to take him on an incredible journey that will change how he feels about her, life and himself. I found The Gargoyle to be an interesting premise. I loved the idea of a love that could transcend all obstacles and reunite people after seven hundred years. Unfortunately, however, I had a hard time getting into this book. It moved slowly at the beginning and until Marianne arrives you're only really dealing with the main character and he annoys me to no end. The writing in this early part feels choppy and amateurish. There are so many similes and metaphors it can get a little corny at times. The beginning was almost enough for me to declare this novel a DNF (did not finish) but this book had been sitting on my shelf for over a year now and since it had been so long I thought I could at least try and finish it. I'm really thankful that I did. The Gargoyle gets a million times better after Marianne shows up. Her stories – both of her own life and those of other star crossed lovers – are absolutely beautiful. The present day happenings of the book often don't even compare to the style and strength of those chapters. It is almost as if they are written by two different people. All in all this book left me with mixed feelings. I didn't really like it but I also wouldn't say I disliked it. It was definitely a mixed bag. It left me with a lot to think about. Marianne's life (whether real or not) is an incredible one and there is definitely some deeper symbolism going on, which I found incredible. I don't know if that was enough, however, to make up for my dislike of the main character and the occasional over use of literary devices.
Date published: 2011-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wow! What a concept. Great style. Captured my attention within 2 pages! And then I was hooked.
Date published: 2011-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely loved it!!! This book was so intresting and so well was very had for me to put down...the beginning was really graphic and i had to skim the words a bit...but besides that it was excellent!!
Date published: 2011-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read! Great cross between historical fiction, fantasy, mysticism and so much more. Very well researched and well written book. There is so much that could be interpreted in a variety of ways that this would make a great book club selection for a broad base of people with eclectic reading habits. Filled with allegory, irony, parallelism, symbolism - call it what you will it would make for great discussions. I enjoyed this novel and look forward to Andrew Davidson's next endeavour.
Date published: 2011-04-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Beautiful Story I founf the overall story lovely to read, however the "concept" was very similar to "I Know This Much is True". Definitely would read again
Date published: 2011-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Odd, but interesting A man drives off a cliff and gets trapped in his car, burning in the fire until his car falls into a river extinguishing the flames. He has third degree burns over most of his body and is taken to the hospital where he becomes very depressed. The book's unnamed narrator was used to getting by on his good looks and now that he has nothing but burns over his body he has to learn to live differently. He is visited by Marianne Engle who was treated in the psychiatric ward of the hospital and she believes that he was her lover in the 1300s. She was a scribe at a monastery and he was a mercenary that was burned and brought to the monastery to try to save him. The two fall in love and try to make a life as a stone worker and scribe. Marianne tells him their story while he recovers, along with some other stories of lovers in other times. Every so often she would disappear to work on carving out gargoyles from stone, which should could work on up to 70 hours straight. The two continue their relationship as he narrator is discharged from the hospital and the narrator finds that there may be some truth in Marianne's stories. This is one of the very few books I've read where you are never told the main character's name. Every so often I would flip back pages to see if he had been named, thinking he had and I just hadn't remembered, but it wasn't there. This was a unique book though at first I wasn't understanding the different stories that Marianne told about lovers in other times but eventually it all wrapped up together. A bit odd at times, it was still worth it in the end and was an interesting book.
Date published: 2010-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This book was definitely something different! A twisted love story! I love the miniature stories told in between this book. Looking for something different to read? Definitely go for this book. I would say 16+ though. I Absolutely loved it! My Favourite!!!!!!!!
Date published: 2010-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Deeply touching Manages to balance skillfully between romantic, disturbing, beautiful and disgusting.
Date published: 2010-06-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Okay It's not that The Gargoyle is bad. There are a couple of exquisite moments in the story that even my natural cynicism can't reject, and Andrew Davidson is a competent (if overly self-indulgent) writer. The pacing of the story is good, the idea is entertaining (and could make an excellent HBO Mini-Series), the two main characters are believable (which is a feat) and the way the story deals with mental health feels genuine, so I can see why people love this book. My problem, however, is as deep as it is simple. I spent the entire book wishing I was reading someone else. But it was worse than that. I didn't just want to be reading another author, I wanted to be reading the same story written by another author. It started as a desire for Michael Ondaatje. I wanted his poetic prose for the story of the narrator's burns and rehabilitation. I wanted The Gargoyle to be a sort of pop-culture English Patient. Then I found myself pining for early Hemingway, back when Papa was cutting all the "good lines" from his work because clever turns of phrase call too much attention to the author and detract from the narrator (and there were so many "good lines" in this story that I started to see Davidson sitting on his laptop like Narcissus kneeling over the pond*). My desire for Hemingway lasted throughout. But I also wanted Irvine Welsh because he's an author who can take an idea like the "b***h-snake" and make it more than precious (read Filth for the perfect expression of a manipulative parasite). Then I longed for Margaret Atwood to write Marianne so the nun-sculptress-manic depressive would be imbued with feminist power. And I wound up wishing I was reading Dante's Inferno rather than the narrator's blah morphine version packed into a chapter. Ondaatje, Hemingway, Welsh, Atwood, Dante. Five authors I'd rather have been reading; five authors who could have told this story better. If that's not enough to explain why this book was never more than okay for me, I've got two more little peeves: the bizarre font choices for the voices in the narrator's head (completely unnecessary), and the extra eighteen pages of drivel that were tacked on to the story's natural end. Where the hell are the Scribners and Pounds when authors like Andrew Davidson need them? Mouldering in their graves while today's "editors" are busy tweeting their days away and rushing the next big thing to press without proper care and attention. For the record: those moments I mentioned earlier were Marianne Engel's perfectly fitting demise and the love story of Sigurd Sigurdson. Both exquisite. *yes, this was on purpose.
Date published: 2010-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New favourite ! Personally this book has replaced the time traveler's wife as my new all-time favourite book. I will admit I had some issues getting started.. It was slow moving for me near the beginning, but it soon picked up and I found myself reading well into the morning! It's a wonderful mix of adventure, history, and of a strange, otherworldly romance. I recommend it to everyone who loves a good read! It's a book that keeps you thinking well after you've flipped the last page!
Date published: 2010-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Good Read I love this book. My boss gave it to me and I could not put it down. It really has a little bit of everything, its intense, funny, religious and best of all a love story. I loved how the author went back to different times, how well he describes feelings and experiences. It was such an amazing book that I've recommended it to 3 different people. They were not disappointed. If you looking for a good story this is it.
Date published: 2010-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this Book! Read this book if you are looking for a creative story with fascinating characters and a very cool plot.
Date published: 2010-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unique Story I have to say I was dubious when I picked this up, but it certainly proved to be an intriguing read. Great characters, history and storylines make this a definite page turner. The first part of the book is a little hard to get through , as it is very graphic, but be patient. An admirable debut novel.
Date published: 2010-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a fantastic read!! I loved this book. The author grabs your attention on the very first page, and doesn't let you go until the very end. I had a difficult time putting the book down, and will definitely be sharing it with my friends!
Date published: 2010-03-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointment I very much wanted to love this book. The premise was perfect, the author is Canadian, and the opening pages were fantastic. I can't ask for much more. Unfortunately something was missing and this made the book drag so much that I actually set it down for months before picking it up again to force myself to finish it in hopes that the ending would redeem the middle. After I finished it, I almost didn't hand it off to my to my friend with whom many books are shared. I did give it to her, with a warning. The warning was that I wanted to love it, but didn't. This is not a book I will return to with a desire to read again.
Date published: 2010-01-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Completely frustrated I'm having trouble finishing this book for a book club meeting. The first few pages truly amazed me (and scared me) with a detailed explanation of a car accident, but the rest of the story is very slow and kind of repetitive. Also, it makes reference to a 12th century time period which is boring me to tears. I will finish this book but it will be difficult. The good thing I can say about this book is that the theme is ironic and it really makes you think about the things that you thought were important - it gave me a source of inner reflection, which I enjoy in a book from time to time.
Date published: 2010-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magical The story is original and the characters are unique. This book is definitely a must read. Marianne Engle is enthralling and the book is simply magical. I have wanted to read this book for a long time it starts out strange and slow but becomes completely engrossing.
Date published: 2009-11-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Captivating Excellent storytelling! Davidson has crafted an intricate and captivating story of one man's struggle through life and redemption after experiencing a horrific accident. It is obvious by the level of detail that this was a labour of love for the author. Powerful story and excellent voice! My only issue was the ending was a bit cliche but the power of the story is enough to keep you reading and accept the ending as possible
Date published: 2009-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Captivating This is one complicated tale that will make you believe in anything. Told skilfully with a first person narration, the author’s impressive narrative skills tell an unlikely story of one man’s personal quest. Readers are immersed into one wildly romantic, macabre and seductive fantasy. The novel opens with a horrific car crash, leaving the driver covered in first to fourth degree burns. While recovering in hospital, he is visited by a psychiatric patient, Marianne Engle, who believes they have met before in a previous life. Engle who is officially diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic entertains him with story after story that span lifetimes. Her tales alone will have you turning page after page as Davidson masterfully weaves the stories into our victim’s recovery. This amazing tale has great characterization with a descriptive writing technique that paints a rich canvas in ones mind. This is one intense, gripping, captivating and powerful novel.
Date published: 2009-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, couldn't put it down. I couldn't put the book down, and found myself stealing away just to read a few more paragraphs while other elements of my life demanded my time. It was all encompassing; I felt lonely when I finished it, missing the characters that had become a part of my life. I love an original story, and this one is exquisitely told.
Date published: 2009-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.” This is the first sentence to begin a compelling story of one man’s journey from hell to love. The Gargoyle is a book of multiple genres: contemporary, historical romance, paranormal, spiritual and fantasy; containing layered messages with symbolism and mysticism. The main character is the narrator, an unnamed individual, telling the story of his redemption after a horrific car accident in which he is broiled alive. The detailed description of what happens in a burn unit and the pain the narrator lives through may put off some people, but it is important for the remainder of the story. Understandably he would have preferred to die and plots his suicide for when it is time to leave the hospital. His former porn associates are unable to cope with his new “ravaged” appearance and begin to drift away. Through the efforts of his kindly doctor Nan Edwards, therapist Gregor, and Sayuri, a cheery Japanese physical therapist they begin to bring him back from the edge. Then a mysterious young woman, Marianne Engel, appears, whispering “Engelthal” and tells him this is the third time he’s been burned. Despite his initial concerns that the woman is a lunatic, he learns from her that she had lived in the 14th century as a nun at the Engelthal Monastery in Germany, employed as a scribe. She also knows the origin of the scar over his heart, and is acquainted with him during several reincarnations. He soon temporarily forgets his suicide plans, waiting for Marianne’s visits and her stories of their previous lifetimes together in combination of other love stories from Germany, Japan, Italy and Iceland. Each of these is well written and researched with compelling, fascinating descriptions of locations, occupations and historical components. It is about relationships that change, through art, love and inner soul growth: situations that determine who people are. The narrative weaves Dante’s Inferno with the love stories from the past into the present where the narrator finally understand Marianne’s compulsive obsession of sculpting gargoyles from cement blocks, finding comfort and strength to overcome his limitations. I liked this book with its intense scenes, funny moments, and concepts that are thought provoking. It is best read slowly, to savour the information as it is revealed.
Date published: 2009-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Not only can you picture the story, you can feel it.
Date published: 2009-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unforgettable and Captivating Andrew Davidson's "The Gargoyle" is a new favorite. From the very beginning, this book hooks you in and doesn't stop the whole way through. It has been a few months since I have read this book and I still find myself thinking about this story and the amazing characters. Andrew Davidson's writing is pure genius, and hard to compare to anyone else I have read. The Gargoyle is a wild, mystical, humorus and twisted love story that will have you believing in the impossible! It is a must read!!
Date published: 2009-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AN INCREDIBLE LITERARY JOURNEY! What an incredible literary journey!. Grabbed me from the first page, so graphic at times I had to put it down and take a deep breath! Poignant, ironic, thought provoking. Made me wonder and question the human condition over and over again. The fine lines between reality, fantasy and psychotic delusion were bonded together in such a fascinating way I believed anything was possible!. LOVED IT! So glad I experienced this book and can't wait for Mr. Davidson's next adventure.
Date published: 2009-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This is one of the best books I have read all year (and I've read a lot of books). The fact that this is Davidson's first book only makes it that much more of an achievement. Gargoyle opens with a horrific car crash, landing the driver, who remains nameless throughout the story, in a hospital covered in first- to fourth-degree burns. A former drug addict and porn star-turned-adult-film-producer, the protagonist/narrator is a hero you would hardly expect to care about. He is sarcastic, dark, cynical and somewhat ungrateful. Yet Davidson finds a way to subtly redeem him over the course of his magical story. By the end of the book, you will probably like the foul-mouthed pornographer who initially cursed those who saved him, and you might even admire him. While in the hospital, our unlikely hero is visited by a psychiatric patient, Marianne Engel, who believes that they were meant to cross paths. In fact, she believes they have met before – in a previous life. Marianne begins visiting our hero, entertaining him with story after story that span lifetimes and cross boundaries. Her tales alone will have you turning pages quickly, but Davidson’s clever weaving of the stories into our hero’s recovery, and subsequent life with Engel, will have you shaking your head in amazement. The Gargoyle’s characters are rich and multifaceted, the imagery breathtaking, the voice and rhythm unfailing. Davidson spent seven years researching and writing The Gargoyle, and you can tell. I loved the story within a story, as Marianne shares her 'history' with the narrator. Marianne, it turns out, is not just a storyteller. She is an artist who carves gargoyles out of stone, and just like she creates beauty out of something dark, giving life to that which seemingly has none, she reshapes our heartless hero bringing the beauty within him to the surface. I highly recommend this book. I look forward to more from Davidson, a promising new Canadian author.
Date published: 2009-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A BEAUTIFUL AND TRAGIC LOVE STORY THAT TRANSCENDS THE BOUNDARIES OF TIME I really liked this book and found myself absorbed in the world that Andrew Davidson has created. THE GARGOYLE is a multilayered tragedy within a love story and it will affect you on many different levels; horrific, sad and gruesome it is also complex, funny, thought provoking and redeeming. Unfortunately any summery you read won't really do it justice. THE GARGOYLE has been written in a first person narrative and although we never learn the narrator's name he is self-consciously and sometimes humorously aware that he's writing a book. We begin with our good looking and self absorbed narrator (N) driving his car while high on cocaine and with a bottle of bourbon between his legs. He subsequently starts hallucinating and to avoid the burning arrows flying towards his car drives off the road. N's car flips several times and catches on fire, burning him alive. The next half of the book takes place within the burn ward as N begins his long road to recovery. The car accident and most of the burn ward scenes are detailed horrific and at times hard to read but they're also so well written that you'll be able to smell the hospital and really feel N's pain and suffering. N has been burned so severely that he no longer resembles anything close to the gorgeous porn star that he once was and as he begins his therapy it's only in the detailed planning of his suicide that he's able to get through the day. The shots of morphine that silence the snake living in his spine help too but you'll have to read the book to understand that. One day a strange and wild woman known as Marianne Engel escapes from the psyche ward and sneaks into the burn unit. She proceeds to tell N that she has known him for 700 years, that he has been burned before and that they were once lovers in medieval Germany where she was a nun and he was a wounded solider. It doesn't matter if he can't remember; she tells him, she will prove it to him. And so begins Marianne's tales of their past lives. The book then begins to jump between time periods as Marianne Engel tells her life story which is set in the middle ages along with several other short stories about different tragic lovers. The flashbacks became my favourite parts of the book taking us to Germany, Japan, Italy and the Vikings of Iceland. The characters from these times are exquisitely interesting and the details of the era were amazing. The research Mr Davidson has put into this book is simply mind boggling. N doesn't believe Maryanne, concluding that she is schizophrenic, nonetheless he comes to rely on her and in their own way the two begin a relationship. Throughout Maryanne's storytelling and hospital visits she continues her lifetimes work, that of carving stone Gargoyles. We are also introduced to several characters both within and outside the hospital all slowly becoming N's friends as he changes and becomes a man of worth. The only part of the book that `lost me' a bit would be the several chapters during N's morphine withdrawal whereupon he enters the gates of hell and confronts all the characters from Marianne's stories and quotes Dante's inferno. This was bizarre and went on for too long but it did tie up all the characters from Marianne's gripping stories. For me the ending was thought provoking and perfect. I won't give too much more away other than to say that this is an extraordinary novel that transcends the boundaries of time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. "Only after I was born into physical repulsiveness did I come to glimpse the possibilities of the heart"
Date published: 2009-08-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Weird and erratic. Starts off with very graphic descriptions of the burn victim's wounds. Follows the victim through long rehab and integrates the Marianne character who's mental illness becomes more and more evident. The story jumps from present-day to various stories of Vikings or early centuries religion & beliefs etc. all of which are suppose to tie back to the present day lives of these two main characters who are together but not really a couple, well at least not in the present time. Not your typical straight forward reading material. I read it but wouldn't recomend it.
Date published: 2009-08-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Complete Crap! Narrative was all over the place, ridiculous waste of time.
Date published: 2009-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Magnificient story-telling This is about a conceited pornographer who gets severely burnt in a car accident who meets a mental patient that visits him in his ward trying to convince him that he was her lover in past centuries through elaborate tale-telling of when they were together.
Date published: 2009-08-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a compelling read I listened to this book on audio over the course of 3 weeks while driving my children on various outings. I am working for memories as I couldn't very well make notes while driving. At the onset of the story, our narrator is horrifically injured and burnt in an automobile accident. He was drunk and high and thought he was doing a superb job of his driving. He wakes in the hospital approximately 2 months later. This introduction to the story left me feeling blank. I had empathy for the narrator, yes they are truly awful injuries, but no sympathy as it was through his own mis-adventure that he was injured. I was hoping that the plot would pick up other wise I was going to erase the file and find something better to read. Then we met the mysterious and un-predictable Marianne Engle. I loved her from the first moment. Sitting in a hospital bed for hours and days on end, I would want almost anyone to walk in. Right from that first visit I knew that Marianne would be different and enjoyable. I loved the various stories that she told the narrator (we never do learn his name???). While she told stories of different people with different names, I got the feeling that we were really hearing the same story being retold generation after generation. I felt that these were the lives that Marianne had travelled through and touched as she was trying to right some 'karmic' wrong. I could picture her lost in her work of carving while the narrator wandered the rooms of her house up above. I for one could not tell when she crossed from her artistic passion into her manic mode. Perhaps it would be when she could not be roused from her work even for food or for caring for her precious dog. Would a person such as Marianne really be able to affect such profound changes of outlook and perspective in such a person as the narrator? He had lead such a debauched life prior to his accident that it was doubtful that he could reform. It was those stories. At first he only listened to them to humour Marianne, after all he couldn't protect himself should she become violent. Then he started to look forward to them and finally he asked to be told more. Myself, I wanted the rest of the current time story to go away and just tell me the 'stories', I needed to know what happened in the past. By telling these stories Marianne was able to help heal her demons as well as those of the narrator. I was hooked on this book from the point where Marianne entered and didn't want to turn it off. I am glad I stuck with it and will gladly suggest it to my fellow readers. PS. I loved the way the narrator kept referring to Marianne by her full name. I found that endearing. .
Date published: 2009-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Gargoyle There is so much to say about this novel that I don’t know where to begin. Maybe all I should write is "Go read it!", but it probably won't be enough, so here are some reasons why you should... First of all, "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson will immediately capture your interest from the very beginning and hold onto it firmly until the last word. The main plot is frequently yet smoothly punctured by several other tales, but each is somehow connected, intertwining to create a final tale that is both mysterious and wonderfully realistic. Second, the characters are immensely interesting, each belonging to their individual stories and some only appearing for a short amount of time, but all of them incredibly memorable. I especially grew fond of the main character, the narrator, who tells the story with beautiful words and imagery, along with a few blunt statements that hold only the ugly truth. Andrew Davidson is definitely an amazing writer. His use of the English language is an inspiring thing to behold and is one reason alone to read his book. I found myself stopping several times just to reread a line because of the way it sounded or because of the insightful meaning behind it. Also, the amount of research that went into this book must have been enormous, because it is full of information I probably never would have learnt if I had not picked up this novel. From burn treatments to Dante's "Inferno", it's all in there; presented within the book in such a way that, while adding to it, does not weigh it down in the slightest, creating new layers that must be explored. Lastly, the theme of the novel is one that will never grow old: love. However, it contains so much more than just that and cannot be categorized under this one single word. Read it yourself and you'll understand why.
Date published: 2009-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly a gem I say this about a lot of good books sometimes, but usually the moment I finish one that completely wows me I come up with something along the lines of how there just aren't enough words in the world to describe how much I truly loved this book. The Gargoyle had such an interesting storyline. And stories upon stories within the story. I loved every minute of reading it and I was almost saddened when I got to the end because it ended and I knew I wasn't going to have any more of the book to read. And I know that sounds silly, but the story completely drew me in. At first I worried about the narration. It was told in first person by the main character, but then Marianne telling the story of their past lives was told from her point of view. But yet almost as though she was this omniscient narrator of the two people she was telling the story about. I know that sounds confusing, but once you're drawn into the book as a whole, you don't really think much about it. I love, love, *love* Andrew Davidson's style of writing. I adored all the different aspects of the novel. I loved the snake and how its voice was conveyed in interruptions in the narrative. I loved the trip to the underworld. I loved everything about this novel. The Gargoyle has quickly jumped into one of my top fives. It's truly, truly amazing.
Date published: 2009-07-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thoroughly Enjoyed I like the way the author wrote the book. The story is told after the event and the main character writes this books to talk about his experience. He believes she's a schizophrenic, but at the same time he's drawn to her. The first 50 pages are slow, but the story picks up when she starts telling him stories about the past. I enjoyed this book.
Date published: 2009-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enchanting! This story is a deliciously written tale of loving, loathing and discovery. It was initially captivating , then it became a little wierd, then it began to pull me in and move me to tears. I enjoyed being transported back through several eras and destinations. I will read it again to savour every word I may have swept over in anticipation! I have told everyone I know that they have to pick it up! Congrats to my favorite new author. Please put pen to paper again soon.
Date published: 2009-06-15

Read from the Book

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 lost my grip on the bottle and it tumbled into my lap, spilling everywhere, before falling to the floorboard. I bent down to grab it before the remaining alcohol leaked out, and when my eyes were lifted I was greeted by the vision, the ridiculous vision, that set everything into motion. I saw a volley of burning arrows swarming out of the woods, directly at my car. Instinct took over and I jerked the steering wheel away from the forest that held my invisible attackers. This was not a good idea, because it threw my car up against the fencepost wires that separated me from the drop. There was the howl of metal on metal, the passenger door scraping against taut cables, and a dozen thuds as I bounced off the wood posts, each bang like electricity through a defibrillator.I overcompensated and spun out into the oncoming lane, just missing a pickup truck. I pulled back too hard on the wheel, which sent me once again towards the guardrail. The cables snapped and flew everywhere at once, like the thrashing tentacles of a harpooned octopus. One cracked the windshield and I remember thinking how glad I was that it hadn’t hit me as the car fell through the arms of the convulsing brute.There was a brief moment of weightlessness: a balancing point between air and earth, dirt and heaven. How strange, I thought, how like the moment between sleeping and falling when everything is beautifully surreal and nothing is corporeal. How like floating towards completion. But as often happens in that time between existing in the world and fading into dreams, this moment over the edge ended with the ruthless jerk back to awareness.A car crash seems to take forever, and there is always a moment in which you believe that you can correct the error. Yes, you think, it’s true that I’m plummeting down the side of a mountain in a car that weighs about three thousand pounds. It’s true that it’s a hundred feet to the bottom of the gully. But I’m sure that if only I twist the steering wheel very hard to one side, everything will be okay.Once you’ve spun that steering wheel around and found it doesn’t make any difference, you have this one clear, pure thought: Oh, shit. For a glorious moment, you achieve the empty bliss that Eastern philosophers spend their lives pursuing. But following this transcendence, your mind becomes a supercomputer capable of calculating the gyrations of your car, multiplying that by the speed of the fall over the angle of descent, factoring in Newton’s laws of motion and, in a split second, coming to the panicked conclusion that this is gonna hurt like hell.Your car gathers speed down the embankment, bouncing. Your hypothesis is quickly proven correct: it is, indeed, quite painful. Your brain catalogues the different sensations. There is the flipping end over end, the swirling disorientation, and the shrieks of the car as it practices its unholy yoga. There’s the crush of metal, pressing against your ribs. There’s the smell of the devil’s mischievousness, a pitchfork in your ass and sulfur in your mouth. The Bastard’s there, all right, don’t doubt it.I remember the hot silver flash as the floorboard severed all my toes from my left foot. I remember the steering column sailing over my shoulder. I remember the eruption of glass that seemed to be everywhere around me. When the car finally came to a stop, I hung upside down, seatbelted. I could hear the hiss of various gases escaping the engine and the tires still spinning outside, above, and there was the creak of metal settling as the car stopped rocking, a pathetic turtle on its back.Just as I was beginning my drift into unconsciousness, there was the explosion. Not a movie explosion but a small real-life explosion, like the ignition of an unhappy gas oven that holds a grudge against its owner. A flash of blue flame skittered across the roof of the car, which was at a slanted angle underneath my dangling body. Out of my nose crawled a drop of blood, which jumped expectantly into the happy young flames springing to life beneath me. I could feel my hair catch fire; then I could smell it. My flesh began to singe as if I were a scrap of meat newly thrown onto the barbecue, and then I could hear the bubbling of my skin as the flames kissed it. I could not reach my head to extinguish my flaming hair. My arms would not respond to my commands.I imagine, dear reader, that you’ve had some experience with heat. Perhaps you’ve tipped a boiling kettle at the wrong angle and the steam crept up your sleeve; or, in a youthful dare, you held a match between your fingers for as long as you could. Hasn’t everyone, at least once, filled the bathtub with overly hot water and forgot to dip in a toe before committing the whole foot? If you’ve only had these kinds of minor incidents, I want you to imagine something new. Imagine turning on one of the elements of your stove--let’s say it’s the electric kind with black coils on top. Don’t put a pot of water on the element, because the water only absorbs the heat and uses it to boil. Maybe some tiny tendrils of smoke curl up from a previous spill on the burner. A slight violet tinge will appear, nestled there in the black rings, and then the element assumes some reddish-purple tones, like unripe blackberries. It moves towards orange and finally--finally!--an intense glowing red. Kind of beautiful, isn’t it? Now, lower your head so that your eyes are even with the top of the stove and you can peer through the shimmering waves rising up. Think of those old movies where the hero finds himself looking across the desert at an unexpected oasis. I want you to trace the fingertips of your left hand gently across your right palm, noting the way your skin registers even the lightest touch. If someone else were doing it, you might even be turned on. Now, slam that sensitive, responsive hand directly onto that glowing element.And hold it there. Hold it there as the element scorches Dante’s nine rings right into your palm, allowing you to grasp Hell in your hand forever. Let the heat engrave the skin, the muscles, the tendons; let it smolder down to the bone. Wait for the burn to embed itself so far into you that you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to let go of that coil. It won’t be long until the stench of your own burning flesh wafts up, grabbing your nose hairs and refusing to let go, and you smell your body burn.I want you to keep that hand pressed down, for a slow count of sixty. No cheating. One Mis-sis-sip-pi, two Mis-sis-sip-pi, three Mis-sis-sip-pii.i.i.i At sixty Mis-sis-sip-pi, your hand will have melted so that it now surrounds the element, becoming fused with it. Now rip your flesh free.I have another task for you: lean down, turn your head to one side, and slap your cheek on the same element. I’ll let you choose which side of your face. Again sixty Mississippis; no cheating. The convenient thing is that your ear is right there to capture the snap, crackle, and pop of your flesh.Now you might have some idea of what it was like for me to be pinned inside that car, unable to escape the flames, conscious enough to catalogue the experience until I went into shock. There were a few short and merciful moments in which I could hear and smell and think, still documenting everything but feeling nothing. Why does this no longer hurt? I remember closing my eyes and wishing for complete, beautiful blackness. I remember thinking that I should have lived my life as a vegetarian.Then the car shifted once more, tipping over into the creek upon whose edge it had been teetering. Like the turtle had regained its feet and scurried into the nearest water source.This occurrence--the car falling into the creek--saved my life by extinguishing the flames and cooling my newly broiled flesh.***Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.I have no idea whether beginning with my accident was the best decision, as I’ve never written a book before. Truth be told, I started with the crash because I wanted to catch your interest and drag you into the story. You’re still reading, so it seems to have worked.The most difficult thing about writing, I’m discovering, is not the act of constructing the sentences themselves. It’s deciding what to put in, and where, and what to leave out. I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I chose the accident, but I could just as easily have started with any point during my thirty-five years of life before that. Why not start with: ìI was born in the year 19----, in the city of----î?Then again, why should I even confine the beginning to the time frame of my life? Perhaps I should start in Nurnberg in the early thirteenth century, where a woman with the most unfortunate name of Adelheit Rotter retreated from a life that she thought was sinful to become a Beguine--women who, though not officially associated with the Church, were inspired to live an impoverished life in imitation of Christ. Over time Rotter attracted a legion of followers and, in 1240, they moved to a dairy farm at Engelschalksdorf near Swinach, where a benefactor named Ulrich II von Konigstein allowed them to live provided they did chores. They erected a building in 1243 and, the following year, established it as a monastery with the election of their first prioress.When Ulrich died without a male heir, he bequeathed his entire estate to the Beguines. In return he requested that the monastery provide burial places for his relations and that they pray, in perpetuity, for the Konigstein family. In a show of good sense he directed that the place be named Engelthal, or ìValley of the Angels,î rather than Swinach--ìPlace of the Pigs.î But it was Ulrich’s final provision that would have the greatest impact on my life: he mandated that the monastery establish a scriptorium.•••Eyes open on a red and blue spin of lightning. A blitzkrieg of voices, noises. A metal rod pierces the side of the car, jaws it apart. Uniforms. Christ, I’m in Hell and they wear uniforms. One man shouts. Another says in a soothing voice: ìWe’ll get you out. Don’t worry.î He wears a badge. ìYou’re gonna be all right,î he promises through his mustache. ìWhat’s your name?î Can’t remember. Another paramedic yells to someone I can’t see. He recoils at the sight of me. Are they supposed to do that? Blackness.Eyes open. I’m strapped to a spine board. A voice, ìThree, two, one, lift.î The sky rushes towards me and then away from me. ìIn,î says the voice. A metallic clack as the stretcher snaps into place. Coffin, why no lid? Too antiseptic for Hell, and could the roof of Heaven really be made of gray metal? Blackness.Eyes open. Weightless again. Charon wears a blue polyester-cotton blend. An ambulance siren bounces off a concrete Acheron. An IV has been inserted into my body--everywhere? I’m covered with a gel blanket. Wet, wet. Blackness.Eyes open. The thud of wheels like a shopping cart on concrete. The damn voice says ìGo!î The sky mocks me, passes me by, then a plaster-white ceiling. Double doors slither open. ìOR Four!î Blackness.***Eyes open. Gaping maw of a snake, lunging at me, laughing, speaking: I\AM\COMING\.\.\.?The serpent tries to engulf my head. No, not a snake, an oxygen mask.?.\.\.\AND\THERE\IS NOTHING\YOU\CAN\DO\ABOUT\IT. I’m falling backwards gas mask blackness.Eyes unveil. Burning hands, burning feet, fire everywhere, but I am in the middle of a blizzard. A German forest, and a river is near. A woman on a ridge with a crossbow. My chest feels as if it’s been hit. I hear the hiss as my heart gives out. I try to speak but croak instead, and a nurse tells me to rest, that everything will be okay, everything will be okay. Blackness.A voice floats above me. ìSleep. Just sleep.î***Following my accident, I plumped up like a freshly roasted wiener, my skin cracking to accommodate the expanding meat. The doctors, with their hungry scalpels, hastened the process with a few quick slices. The procedure is called an escharotomy, and it gives the swelling tissue the freedom to expand. It’s rather like the uprising of your secret inner being, finally given license to claw through the surface. The doctors thought they had sliced me open to commence my healing but, in fact, they only released the monster--a thing of engorged flesh, suffused with juice.While a small burn results in a blister filled with plasma, burns such as mine result in the loss of enormous quantities of liquid. In my first twenty-four hospital hours, the doctors pumped six gallons of isotonic liquid into me to counteract the loss of body fluids. I bathed in the liquid as it flowed out of my scorched body as fast as it was pumped in, and I was something akin to the desert during a flash flood.This too-quick exchange of fluid resulted in an imbalance in my blood chemistry, and my immune system staggered under the strain, a problem that would become ever more dangerous in the following weeks when the primary threat of death was from sepsis. Even for a burn victim who seems to be doing well long after his accident, infection can pull him out of the game at a moment’s notice. The body’s defenses are just barely functioning, exactly when they are needed most.My razed outer layers were glazed with a bloody residue of charred tissue called eschar, the Hiroshima of the body. Just as you cannot call a pile of cracked concrete blocks a ìbuildingî after the bomb has detonated, neither could you have called my outer layer ìskinî after the accident. I was an emergency state unto myself, silver ion and sulfadiazine creams spread over the remains of me. Over that, bandages were laid to rest upon the devastation.I was aware of none of this, and only learned it later from the doctors. At the time, I lay comatose, with a machine clicking off the sluggish metronome of my heart. Fluids and electrolytes and antibiotics and morphine were administered through a series of tubes (IV tube, jejunostomy tube, endotracheal tube, nasogastric tube, urinary tube, truly a tube for every occasion!). A heat shield kept my body warm enough to survive, a ventilator did my breathing, and I collected enough blood transfusions to shame Keith Richards.The doctors removed my wasteland exterior by debriding me, scraping away the charred flesh. They brought in tanks of liquid nitrogen containing skin recently harvested from corpses. The sheets were thawed in pans of water, then neatly arranged on my back and stapled into place. Just like that, as if they were laying strips of sod over the problem areas behind their summer cabins, they wrapped me in the skin of the dead. My body was cleaned constantly but I rejected these sheets of necro-flesh anyway; I’ve never played well with others. So over and over again, I was sheeted with cadaver skin.There I lay, wearing dead people as armor against death.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Dante’s InfernoFirst published in 1314, this epic poem is the first “song” in Dante Alighieri’s three-part Divine Comedy; subsequent canticles describe Purgatory and Paradise. In The Inferno, Virgil guides Dante through the underworld, comprising nine concentric circles that represent varying degrees of condemnation, from the unbaptized in Limbo to traitorous Satan at the center. Dante begins his tour of hell on Good Friday, 1300, the suggested day and year of Marianne’s birth. The day of Christ’s crucifixion, Good Friday makes additional appearances in The Gargoyle: It is Sister Christina’s birthday and the day of the narrator’s car accident.Like Dante, The Gargoyle’s narrator begins his journey in the woods, at the age of thirty-five. Contemplation of suicide occurs in early passages of The Inferno as well as The Gargoyle. For Discussion: In The Inferno, condemned souls receive punishments that correspond to their sins. The Gargoyle’s narrator loses his ability to consummate sex, but he retains his ability to feel intense desire. What other forms of hell does he suffer? What do Dante’s images signify to Marianne? What sort of tailor-made suffering might Dante have invented for you? What do a society’s beliefs regarding the afterlife say about that society’s values in general?2. The Medieval ChurchThe founding of the Dominican monastery Engelthal occurred as described in The Gargoyle. In its strictest definition, “monastery” can refer to a religious retreat for both women and men, though Engelthal nuns did not preach as friars did. The nuns’ predecessors, the beguines, were also sometimes seen as a threat to ecclesiastical authority. The women who worked in the renowned Engelthal scriptorium in the fourteenth century are said to have produced more extant texts than any other religious house of their era.At the time of Father Sunder’s death in 1328, he and Brother Heinrich had lived together for thirty-eight years. Father Sunder was said to have had very special status, and was called a “pope in heaven” with the Power of the Keys, effectively granting him the authority to forgive any sin at any time. Heinrich Seuse’s extreme, self-inflicted physical suffering captures a medieval Christian approach to the opposition between body and spirit, and to the desire for God and man to achieve a metaphysical union. Meister Eckhart, who explored similar questions, was declared a heretic under trial by Pope John XXII. The Three Masters are derived from Heinrich Seuse’s attempts to control his tongue. He called on three spiritual masters, Father Dominic, St. Arsenius, and St. Bernard, and would not speak without receiving their permission in a vision. Marianne’s assertion in Chapter Five that “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” was commonly invoked by medieval theologians.Continually persecuted by religious and political entities, the Jews of medieval Germany lived in two worlds: one of segregated self-governance and Talmudic codes, and one of utter dependence on the whims of papal authority.For Discussion: How does medieval Catholicism compare to the other forms of faith – religious or otherwise – captured in the novel? In what ways does contemporary society still struggle with the tandem between body and soul? Was it easier for you to relate to Marianne’s mysticism or to the narrator’s atheism?3. GargoylesThe legend describing the creation of the first gargoyle, recounted in Chapter Three, is just one of many versions. Andrew Davidson invented the battle scene between Romanus and La Gargouille; it does not appear in published legends.The concept of using a sculpture depicting an animal’s mouth to divert water from buildings dates well before medieval Europe. Ancient Egyptian and Greek architecture is rife with apparatuses that would qualify as “gargoyles.”As Marianne says in Chapter Twenty, medieval gargoyles were indeed sometimes painted bright colors. Oranges, reds, and greens were popular, and some gargoyles were gilded. They were made from a variety of materials, including limestone, marble, lead, or metal, and they usually weighed several hundred pounds.Scholars debate the intended message behind medieval gargoyles. Perhaps they were meant to ward off evil spirits, or to depict evil forces. Early Gothic examples easily convey a moral lesson, while later ones can frequently be interpreted as comical.For Discussion: In Chapter Five, Marianne describes herself as “a vessel that water is poured into and splashes out of, a flowing circle between God and the gargoyles and me.” In Chapter Sixteen, the narrator realizes that Marianne “loved [the gargoyles] out of the stone.” What mandate is she fulfilling in both of these descriptions? What makes Marianne’s mandate relevant to the modern world? What traits does the narrator share with medieval gargoyles?4. Legendary LoversThe author incorporated the four Greek classical elements of the physical world when writing Marianne’s legends: Sei lived as a glassblower (Air) and died by being buried alive (Earth). Victoria lived as a farmwoman (Earth) and died by drowning (Water). Sigurðr lived as a Viking (Water) and died in a burning longhouse (Fire). Francesco lived as an ironworker (Fire) and died by breathing in the Plague (Air).Brandeis and his fellow mercenaries served during a tumultuous time for the Holy Roman Empire. Between 1314 and 1347, Louis the Bavarian served as Duke of Bavaria, the German king, and the Holy Roman Emperor, meeting with constant resistance from the papacy (including excommunication). Marianne’s fairy tales are Davidson’s inventions. Though the novel’s depictions of Engelthal incorporate many figures from true history, none of the incarnations of Marianne and the narrator are based on such characters. Marianne’s copy of The Inferno was found among the possessions of the archer Niccolò, later revealed to be the father of metalworker Francesco.Sei is stung by the Asian giant hornet, the world’s largest wasp (and among the deadliest).Sigurðr’s “fine boat grave” refers to a highly honorary burial style used in the Vendel era and by the Anglo-Saxons, the Merovingians, the Vikings, and occasionally the Ancient Egyptians. This form of burial was thought to enable passage to Valhalla. In Norse mythology, the paradise of Valhalla is the great hall where war heroes greet the afterlife. The less fortunate are relegated to a cold, dismal kingdom of death ruled by the goddess Hel. Tom’s ill-fated voyage is alluded to in the story of Sigurðr and Einarr, when Bragi stumbles off his sleeping bench during the fire while the floor seems “to lurch like a boat deck during a storm.”In Chapter Seven, Marianne tells the narrator that he must do nothing for her in order to prove his love. This foreshadows her final scene on the beach in the novel’s closing passages.For Discussion: Throughout each liaison, how do the novel’s lovers honor their fate? In each case, who or what is the greatest threat to their happiness? Do you agree with Meister Eckhart’s descriptions of love and death in the novel’s epigraph? Which of Marianne’s tales was the most memorable for you?5. Linguistic CuriositiesTranslated into English, Sei’s name means “pure” or “clean.” Bragi’s name is derived from the Norse god of poetry. In Chapter Nine, the narrator wonders whether he can trust Sayuri’s translation of her conversation with Marianne. In fact, he can. Sayuri gave him a faithful rendering of their words.The names of the nun-nurses of Engelthal echo those of the nurses who tend to the narrator in the present time: Mathildis, Elisabeth, and Constantia versus Maddy, Beth, and Connie. While the word gargoyle is related to a French word meaning gargle, the word grotesque (a non-aquatic gargoyle) is derived from the Old Italian grottesca, meaning “cave painting,” from which the English word grotto evolved.Marianne’s linguistic abilities are an allusion to the New Testament’s Book of Acts 2:3, in which the apostles speak in tongues when preaching the gospel.Gertrud’s German translation of the Bible is one of Andrew Davidson’s inventions.When Sayuri asks the narrator if he is genki, she is asking him if he is feeling energetic. “Genki desu ka?” is a common Japanese greeting, essentially asking “Are you feeling well?”For Discussion: How does the multilingual aspect of The Gargoyle shape the novel, giving voice to the universal aspects of the human experience? How do Marianne’s vignettes offer a testament to the power of words and language?6. The Gargoyle begins with arguably one of the most stunning opening scenes in contemporary literature. How was the author able to make horrifying details alluring? What was your initial reaction to these images?7. How were you affected by the narrator’s voice and his ability to address you in an intimate, direct monologue? How did his storytelling style compare to Marianne’s? In what ways did these tales balance reality and surrealism?8. Arrows form a recurring symbol throughout the novel. What are their various uses as tools of war and of love? What makes them ideal for Marianne’s stories?9. What medical aspects of the narrator’s treatment surprised you the most? Did his gruesome journey change the way you feel about your own body?10. How did Marianne’s experience of God evolve and mature throughout her life? How do you personally reconcile the concept of a loving God and the reality of human suffering?11. Marianne uses her body as a canvas. What messages does it convey? How does the narrator “read” bodies before his accident, both in front of the camera and while picking up less-dazzling strangers?12. Discuss the role of ghosts and memory in The Gargoyle. In what ways does the past repeat itself? How are the characters shaped by past circumstances? When are their painful cycles to be broken?13. What does Marianne’s copy of The Inferno indicate about the value of books beyond their content? In what way can a book also be an art object, or an artifact of history?14. Eventually, Nan reveals her own burn scars. What motivates the novel’s healers – including Nan, Marianne, Sayuri, and Gregor? Whom does the narrator heal?15. Discuss the role of money throughout The Gargoyle. What kept Jack honest? What did it mean for Marianne, a woman, to have far more money than the men in her life, both in the 14th century and in the contemporary storyline?16. How did you interpret the narrator’s own Dante-esque tour, described in Chapter Twenty-nine? Was he hallucinating, in the throes of withdrawal while he kicked the bitchsnake of morphine, or did he journey to an underworld? Or both? Was Marianne a mere mortal?17. The novel closes with Marianne’s departure and the marriage of Gregor and Sayuri. The narrator grapples with guilt, trying to understand whether he could or should have saved Marianne. What enabled Gregor and Sayuri to recognize and nurture their love for one another? What determines whether a relationship will become exhausted or perpetually revitalized? Is fate or willpower the greater factor?18. An old adage, evidenced particularly in Shakespeare’s works, states that a comedy ends with a marriage, while a tragedy ends with a death. Given that The Gargoyle ends with both a marriage and a death, what does it say about the work?

Editorial Reviews

“An epic page-turner. Davidson’s writing is so vivid and graphic, it will give you the chills.” — People“There is an admirable clarity to his prose, a careful avoidance of the kind of turgid or melodramatic sentences one finds in lesser writers….The Gargoyle does not disappoint….Sweeping, intergenerational, wholly implausible, unapologetically melodramatic, and absolutely absorbing. While reading it I rolled my eyes more times than I care to remember; it was, at the same time, impossible to put down..” — The Globe and Mail“Following close behind David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader, The Gargoyle is another in this summer's extraordinary series of million-dollar debuts from unknown writers that combine elements of mystery and mysticism….I dare you to read this without flinching. It's as engrossing as it is gruesome, the kind of horror you watch with one eye closed.”— The Washington Post“You want to be lost in its pages, immersed in the unfolding tale of the human gargoyle and a flesh and blood wraith. In the final analysis, the real tragedy of this book is that it ends.”— New York Daily News“Mr. Davidson paints an engaging if not scintillating tableau.”— The Wall Street Journal“It's wildly romantic, a la Diana Gabaldon, but anchored by a 21st-century sensibility that owes more to Chuck Palahniuk.”— Winnipeg Free Press“In the first 4 1/2 pages of The Gargoyle, it's clear that Davidson can spin an electrifying yarn.”— The Vancouver Sun“A wild page-turner and a boldly impudent work that flirts with the trappings of gothic romances, historical novels and fantasies while skirting their clichés and remaining defiantly unique.”— Edmonton Sun“Davidson’s debut is 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.” — Library Journal“[A] deliriously ambitious debut novel.” — Kirkus (starred review) "I was blown away by Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. . . . A hypnotic, horrifying, astonishing novel that manages, against all odds, to be redemptive."— Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants“After 44 years of reading anything I could get my hands on, including Moby Dick, reading Andrew Davidson’s debut novel made me feel as if I were done. The Gargoyle had it all — all I’d ever wanted or needed from a book….[The] characters are rich and knowing, the imagery breathtaking, the voice and rhythm unfailing.” — The Raabe ReviewFrom the Hardcover edition.