Tag Archives: dante

Book Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Title:The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davidson
Publisher: Canongate Books
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
ISBN: 978-1847671691
PP: 502 pages
Price: £7.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Read this book. Read it. Just shut up and read it, already. Are you reading it? Why not? I told you to read it!

“But it’s yucky!” you complain. “The narrator gets all burned and gross, and he’s mean, and what’s up with the crazy lady?”

All right, yes, I will grant you, the first few chapters are incredibly difficult to get through, particularly if you have a delicate stomach. The unnamed narrator does, indeed, get in a horrific car crash where he is terribly, almost fatally, burnt. What follows is a stomach-turningly graphic depiction of what goes on in a burn ward. Stephen King would probably turn green at some of these scenes. You will be tempted to set “The Gargoyle” down and walk away. But I’m begging you to come back. Your suffering will be rewarded.

This is what Marianne claims, as she enters the narrator’s life in the gown of a psychiatric patient at the hospital. She is jealous of his pain, as she believes that it means God has not forgotten him. Marianne is 700 years old, born in the year 1300 and raised in a convent. She is overjoyed when she meets the scarred narrator, as she believes that he is her long-dead lover returned to her. She then must set about convincing him of her story: of how the two fell in love all those years ago and how they were separated, about her divine mission to set her hearts free by carving huge gargoyles out of stone, and about the redemptive powers of love, suffering, and sacrifice.

So much happens in this book I don’t even know how to start describing it. Marianne takes the narrator in and begins telling him stories. Interspersed with the tale of her own past are four other short love stories, set in eras and locations as varied as feudal Japan, medieval Italy, Victorian England, and Viking Iceland. These stories weave in and out of the main one, forming tentative connections and complementing its themes. Literary classics are alluded to as well, most notably Dante’s Inferno. People suffer and die (or not), they sacrifice everything they have for love, they create powerful art and watch it destroyed, they journey to the underworld, and they approach God. And through it all are the two lynchpins of this book, love and pain, forever entwined, each intensifying the other, unwanted and unlooked for but present in every page.

This is quite simply one of the most powerful, intense, gripping, and captivating books I have read in a long time. Maybe it’s too intense for some readers; I can tell already from the reviews that many are put off by this love story between the disfigured misanthrope and the schizophrenic artist. But if you have the strength to shoulder the burdens Andrew Davidson places on the reader, I promise, your suffering will be rewarded.

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Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Firstly you should know this book took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r to read. This is shocking to me. I am a very fast reader and for this size book I would normally have read about two to four hours tops. I knew when I was ten hours in that, that the book was unusual. The blurb describing the book gives you the story already. I won’t re-hash. The concept of Angels and humans having offspring is certainly intriguing. The intersection of myth, religion, and fantasy caught my eye and I simply had to read this one.

As I started reading I found myself getting quite bogged down in the amount of detail the author provides for seemingly mundane things — like floors, or walls, unimportant people and locations. In fact so much detail I felt as if I was drowning in it. I had a hard time keeping focused on the story as I was often disoriented. It felt like four words were used where one would suffice. E.G. I could describe the convent to someone so well they could likely find it on a boat ride down the Hudson. Yet I couldn’t say much about how the angelology society could remain secret for so long and how it could co-exist in our world or even how people could be drawn to it or find out about it. There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of a magical letter dropped off by an owl for any of these angelologists. I wanted to know more about this aspect.

Slowness in reading is not necessarily bad–just makes for longer reading sessions. Not a problem if the book holds my interest and this one did-at times. I was absorbed by the idea that there could be this evil shadow in our world–moving among us unseen and unknown but for a few staunch defenders of humanity, themselves flawed and conflicted.

Unfortunately I felt that this whole world of Angelology (which is sort of similar to the wizarding world in Harry Potter in that there is something humans don’t know of that lives either with them or adjacent to them) just wasn’t that plausible. That left me treating it like more of a fantasy novel and less like a dual-worlds novel. To be honest I was looking forward to it being more of a world inside our own type. In a way it almost read similar to a political conspiracy thriller–the idea that there is a group of people (or things) controlling the rest of us.

Many of the characters seemed lackluster, as if they were wooden and lifeless. Some of their motivations were unclear which I found confusing. There was certainly enough space to expound on the motives of more of the characters but often you get just a glimpse and then the window is closed and the blinds pulled. Oddly unsatisfying but curiosity inducing. In spite of all this the overall concept still kept me intrigued but sometimes I literally had to force myself to keep reading.

I felt like I was trying to sift through facts and descriptive text to find that nugget that imparted knowledge and wisdom and propelled the story forward. Flatly I didn’t really like any of the characters that much — they didn’t inspire much in me at all. The villain? Not really villainous. The heroine? Bland and uninspiring. You get the picture.

I will say that it did pick up about three quarters of the way and by the end I was reading much faster–far more engaged. The last 50 pages or so moved very quickly- at a pace that kept your interest and got rid of some of the superfluous wording seen earlier in the book.

Although the ending was not as satisfying as I had hoped it did pull up my review rating. There was a twist that I had considered earlier on and discarded–kudos to the author for that. Even though it was cringe worthy it was certainly plot worthy in my opinion.

Overall I’m still kind of confused about how I feel about this book. I guess I would say I was sort of absorbed in it in spite of some pretty significant shortcomings. The reason that I couldn’t give it 5 stars was two-fold: that I didn’t find myself enamored of any of the characters enough to be super invested in them (except Verlaine who I mostly found oddly appealing although consistently strange) and because the world lacked some level of believability. Although rich it was distant.

Although seemingly well described it was bereft somehow of strong attachment or feeling. Of the type where when things happen you don’t say wow you just keep reading. After completion I don’t think I’d want to be part of this world and maybe we aren’t meant to–it is a far darker tale then I normally read and enjoy.

Angelology; Trussoni, Danielle; Viking Adult; $27.95