It was the cover: a woman’s naked back tattooed with angel’s wings and a glowing red heart at her center. It was the cover that immediately grabbed me and shook me out of my dulled pacing while I waited to pick up my son from nursery school. Then, I read the title. The Gargoyle. I am a lover of all things Parisian – this book held promise.
I felt its cover and turned the book over curious for more information. “…story of one man’s descent into personal hell and his quest for salvation”, I like that; and, “…love that transcends the boundaries of time”, that got me; and, “…the immortal power of storytelling” sold it.
Davidson ensnares me with the opening line – and every subsequent word spins a tale that I gladly immerse myself in.
I loved the great lengths that Davidson went through to make his story so believable. Every detail about the narrator’s experience, from his accident, to the burn ward, the many surgeries, wrapping/unwrapping, sloughing off of dead skin made me tingle and shiver. It was a horrific fascination with pain, both physical and emotional. I could not read enough and Davidson delivered.
The narrator’s trauma is finally tempered by the entrance of a mysterious character: strong, fierce, passionate, schizophrenic. Marianne Engel will convince any skeptic that reincarnation is a fact and any cynic that love, true love, is not limited by the restrictions of place or time. Her rope-like hair and wild aspect mark her; she is outside of social conventions. Her tattooed body brings forth questions of faith; a topic that is also outside the social norms of polite conversation. Marianne Engel slaps you in the face with questions of God, angels, faith and love. We cannot turn away. We are forced to struggle with our own sense of faith. What do I believe? Davidson creates a complex, intricate character that will bring lively discussion to any reading group!
Marianne Engel tells various love stories throughout the novel. All of them magical, mystical, inconceivable and irresistible. I found myself eagerly awaiting each one. They were like four short stories that helped to release the tension of the main plot and that took me away from the pain of the protagonist. Each one ultimately showed the awesome power of pure love. Her main story is a wildly passionate, archetypal love story that supposedly took place between her and the narrator 700 years ago. And, just as the narrator becomes slowly convinced of the veracity of the story, I did too. I fell in love with the story of how their love began and eagerly awaited for Marianne Engel to reveal each chapter. Ultimately, Davidson convinced me that the only feeling that matters is love; as long as there is love, we can survive. Admittedly, with me, that task wasn’t exactly a difficult one. I am a hopeless romantic and I love a good love story. Reading The Gargoyle certainly fulfilled that for me without any sappy, mushy modern notions of romance.
I believe readers will be fascinated by Marianne Engel, tormented by the narrator and swept away by Davidson’s powerful narratives about relationships with the self, others and God. Above all, the core of this novel is love and Davidson eloquently convinced me that love will not fall to the trials of human brutality, suffering nor the passage of time.