The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
|The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson|
|Genre: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale|
|Summary: The nameless protagonist, en route along a lonely road, suffers a most appalling car crash, the after effects of which are described in graphic detail. Alongside this life shattering event, a former lover appears…from the medieval age in Germany!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 502||Date: January 2009|
|Publisher: Canongate Books|
Journeying through his own particular Hell, the author encounters the enigmatic Marianne, who claims they were lovers many centuries ago, giving him explicit details as to their former life/lives together. This formed the bulk of the novel, and was wonderful. Retelling legends and myths from various civilisations is a wonderful tool, and reminded me of the enchanting The Blood of Flowers, (Anita Amirrezvani) which also utilised this method to great effect. In some respects our two protagonists can be seen as Beauty and the Beast, with the unnamed protagonist crippled by self loathing and depression, and energised by the enigmatic Marianne, the sculptor of gargoyles.
This is one of the most polished and astonishingly accomplished debut novels imaginable. The scope, both of the plot and the character development is wonderful, intense and page turning. The themes are vast, wide ranging and beautifully developed - whether dealing with beauty, religion, love, madness, medical ethics, the author fuses all elements into an absorbing and disturbing read. At times, it is hugely uncomfortable - almost stomach churning in its depiction of the physical agonies which the protagonist suffers - but although horrific, this forms a necessary part of the narrative, leading our hero to a heightened state of fear confusion and agony, which is pivotal to the main content of the novel. I'm delighted to say, that although horrendous, there is no gratuitous violence per se and so the horrific elements lift it far beyond the confines of the horror genre.
Overall, rather than horror, this is an unconventional, and gothic love story, which defies all notions of time and space. The legend re-telling of various other love stories give this a depth and excitement, which was wonderful to perceive. The interspersed tales from the past were simply magnificent, and for me formed the highlight of the book. Indeed I wondered if the author had written them in this style to illustrate a contrast by extreme with the horror of the medical scenes. Granted they read like fairy stories - but I mean that as a compliment, not a criticism. I was also blown away by the narrator's hallucinatory journey through Hell - the imagery was spectacular.
Throughout I was most impressed too with the humorous and self deprecating comments made by the narrator, and which again demonstrate the huge canvas of ability that the author has at his disposal. The author's expertise with words and language gave the narrative a real edge. Initially I couldn't put the book down. Then I tried to limit myself to a few chapters at a time, in order to make it last longer. Finally I did something I have NEVER done in my life - as soon as I finished it, I went straight back to the beginning, and started it again.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I'm very much looking forward to more from this very talented author. I wish him every success for the future… and hope his next novel won't be too long in reaching the shelves.
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is in the Richard and Judy Shortlist 2009.
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