Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Gargoyle

The setup of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson sounds a bit like a Stephen King novel (especially his recent books that deal with convalescents) - a horribly burned man meets a brilliant gargoyle carver/mental patient who convinces him to come back to her place after he is released from the hospital. The narrator (our burned ex-porn star semi-hero) isn't sure about Marianne Engel (the artist/schizophrenic) at first, mostly because she claims to be over 700 years old and to have known him in a past life. But he begins to trust her and does eventually end up at her home, where he learns the story of their past relationship.

I really loved this book, but for reasons I can't quite explain. It's not like I have anything in common with any of the characters or their situations. I think it's more the "1001 Arabian Nights" quality of Marianne's storytelling that captured me - the narrator longs to hear more about the perceived relationship between himself and Marianne, but she keeps interjecting other tales of love lost. By the time he understands his feelings for her, though, those other stories are as much a part of him as they are of her. In fact, it was the past-life story, along with the other stories that Marianne told, that were the most compelling part of the narrative for me - I cared more about the lovers from the past than the horrors of the present.

I really enjoyed Davidson's writing style because it wasn't overly fancy. Rather, the story is told by someone who has had a lot of time to reflect on what happened, and as such, is described in very realistic terms. Such a strong narrative is hard to find in a debut book, and I'm curious to see what else Davidson can do.

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