2000 - 2007 Recommended books Richard and Judy Book Club

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

I had heard lots of good things about The Gargoyle, and seen it on several people’s “Best of 2008” list, so was expecting great things. Perhaps I built my expectations up too much, as I was slightly disappointed.

The book follows the nameless narrator, as he recovers from severe burns after a car crash. His life is enriched when Marianne Engel, a mysterious sculptress of gargoyles, begins to visit him in the burns unit. Marianne claims to be a 700-year-old Medieval scribe, and she slowly reveals some of the events that she has witnessed over her long life.

I really enjoyed all the modern sections of the book. The thoughts of the burns victim were incredibly vivid, but were described in an almost comic way, so I was not disgusted by them:

Even when the skin did take, the absence of oil glands in the transplanted tissue resulted in extreme dryness. “Ants beneath the skin” is not only too cliched a description of how it felt, but also not graphic enough. Lumberjack termites brandishing little chainsaws, maybe; or a legion of fiddler crabs wearing hairshirts and fiberglass shoes; or a legion of baby rats dragging tiny barbed-wire plows. Tap-dancing, subepidermal cockroaches wearing soccer cleats and cowbuy spurs? Perhaps.

The book was very well researched, and I learnt a lot about the treatment of burns, schizophrenia and Medieval Germany. I also found Marianne’s character very interesting. I loved trying to work out whether or not she was schizophrenic, but I found that many of her tales seemed to drag on a bit. Although I realise their purpose in the story, I think that many of them could have been reduced in length, or removed completely. They interfered with the flow of the book, and made it overly long.

I enjoyed the ending of the book, it brought everything together, and rounded it all off nicely. Andrew Davidson is clearly a very skilled writer, and this is a great debut novel, but I think he tried to fit too many things into this book. I look forward to reading future books by him, as his imagination is wonderful!

Recommended for the vivid descriptions of life as a burns victim, and for re-enforcing the message that a person’s real beauty is underneath the skin, but be aware that fifty percent of the book is fairly average.

Also reviewed by Fresh Ink Books

11 replies on “The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson”

You know, I’ve read alot of blogger buzz over this book as well. I was shocked to see it in Entertainment Weekly as one of the worst books of the year! What? It says “Publisher Doubleday clearly had high hopes that this howlingly bad medieval thriller would be the next Da Vinci Code. It wasn’t. In fact, it turned out to be one of the biggest flops of the year.” I just shake my head!

Wow! I’d love to meet him. He is a really talented author, and I bet he’s a really interesting person to talk to.

I think a reason this book may be being recommended so much is that the good bits are very powerful, and will remain with you for a long time, and even just a few days after finishing it, I’m beginning to forget about those long, slow bits!

I really enjoyed this one and took part in a live webchat with the author at the time of reading over on the Waterstones Book Club.
If I had a critism it would be that I did not like the “fairy tales” interspersed in the story but not to such a huge extent that it clouded my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Will definitely be looking out for further work by Andrew Davidson in the future.

Karen, I read the live webchat from the R&J show, but can’t remember much about it now. I can’t decide whether the fairy tales are literary genius, or a distraction from a fantastic story, but I will definitely be reading his next book whenever it comes out.

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