Some books trail just at the edge of my memory. Pieces of their plots or familiar characters are remembered when I read other stories, or I think about them when I’m having a conversation about a similar subject. The Gargoyle is one of those books for me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately–it sits at eye level on one of my shelves, and so it’s been peaking out at me. It’s also one of those books that encompasses so much legend that hints of it are everywhere. I knew I was going to have to read it again soon, and I am so glad I did. I forgot just how amazing it was.
At its core, The Gargoyle is a very realistic, detailed story about a burn victim. This isn’t come Hollywood version, though, where the person is horrifically burned, then walks out of the hospital scarred, but pain free in a week or so. The healing process in this book is excruciating, lengthy, and frustrating.
That is only the base of the story–in between the lines are other tales, as told by the narrator’s caregiver, a mysterious woman who comes into his life out of the past. This is where the legends come in. Medieval German Catholicism is heavy here, predating Luther. I may not be Catholic, but as I am fascinated by Western Medieval history…I can’t get far without finding the lore of Catholicism interesting as well. There is also Japanese, Norse, and Italian mythology wrapped up in Marianne Engel’s stories–especially Dante’s version of Hell.
Andrew Davidson is a genius, an artist. The Gargoyle is so well constructed that you’ll find yourself lost in the best possible manner. How often do you read a book with a nameless narrator, who is the main character, and come out on the other side completely transfixed? I could read this all over again right now and be completely happy.
But, alas, it goes back on the shelf for now…