I have just finished reading the second book from my Great Re-Read of 2015 list: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.
I am not going to lie to you, the reason I bought this book, back in 2008 is purely because of the cover and the black page edges. It totally is. I saw it and I wanted it and I didn’t really care what it was about or how good it was supposed to be, I just needed to own it. Fortunately for me, it has not only turned out to be nice to look at but really fucking amazing to read as well.
“Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love…”
This was only my second time reading The Gargoyle, which was a bit of a surprise to realise. You know how sometimes you have a favourite book or film or restaurant, and you could swear you’ve read it/seen it/eaten there loads of times, but then you realise that no, actually it was just the once…but that it left such a massive impression on you it seems like it should be more? That’s The Gargoyle for me. The truth is, I read it as soon as I bought it, devoured it in a matter of days and then have thought of it so often since that I’d mistakenly assumed I’ve read it several other times. It was only when I added it to the list for my Great Re-Reads challenge that I properly thought about it and realised that no, I’d definitely only read it once before.
I remembered it well though, so not much came as a surprise this time, although in a way that was actually nice because without that “OMG, NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS” driving force, I could slow right down and enjoy the ride…and what a ride.
In case anyone doesn’t know what the book is about I suppose I should try to summarise. The Gargoyle is written from first person POV, and the (un-named) narrator is a guy who is badly disfigured following an accident (this happens right at the start of the book so I’m not giving away a massive plot twist there or anything). When he is in hospital recovering he meets a woman: Marianne Engel, who is a psychiatric patient and who claims to have known (and loved) him in a past life. The story follows his recovery interspersed with her re-telling of their ‘history’ together. So it jumps between past and present day and switches from his voice to hers. Dante’s Inferno features heavily, in fact there’s a massive focus on religion, spirituality, and redemption. There’s sex (the narrator having been a pornographer prior to his accident) and violence (at times quite graphic) and a lot of black humour, but I’d say above all it’s really about personal growth, and about love.
In fact, I can’t help but feel like it’s poignant my having re-read it in February, and posting this today, what with it being Valentines Day and all. But The Gargoyle is one of those rare books about love that isn’t a romance. In fact I don’t know what ‘category’ I’d put it in. I guess it’s Literary Fiction, but it’s got a mix of everything in there, so I’d be hard pressed to think of a reader it wouldn’t appeal to- aside from the very squeamish maybe.
You will all know by now how I feel about book reviews, and my inability to articulate precisely what makes a book so special and why I love it so. It’s a source of endless frustration to me that when I try to put into words how wonderful something is all I end up with is a sort of “SQUEEE! YOU HAVE TO READ THIS NOW!” but after my last Great Re-Read of 2015 post, about The Stand, a couple of people told me they’d decided to give it a try, based on my recommendation, so even though I feel like I’m failing to do these incredible books justice, I am going to keep trying.
I love The Gargoyle for it’s beauty, inside and out, the language is poetic without being un-natural or ridiculously hard to read. The protagonist is no angel but Davidson quickly gets you on his ‘side’ (or he did with me anyway) and you find yourself sympathising and rooting for this guy despite his flaws. The stories Marianne tells are beautiful and could probably be appreciated as stand-alone stories by themselves, but being woven into the novel alongside the narrative of present-day reality, makes them even more breath-taking.
I am at serious risk of over-hyping this book, which is a problem that actually occurred when it was released because of it’s critical acclaim, some people felt ‘let-down’, but I was living in a (metaphorical) cave in 2008 and so avoided all the hype and was able to just come across it by accident and appreciate it for what it was. So I’m not going to keep going on and on about how much I love it, I’m just going to end by saying that I do. And that I’m so glad I finally got round to reading it again after all these years, as it remains one of my favourite books of all time, ever.
Next month’s re-read is The Book Thief so I’ll be back in March with a blog post about that 🙂