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239 of 268 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gargoyle
After the slight disappointment earlier this year from Nick Harkaway's debut novel The Gone-Away World, I was a little skeptical about reading another new writer because I often find too many flaws ridden throughout the pages. However, The Gargoyle is another case entirely. In fact, the book is so well told that I just can't find a single fault. It really is quite...
Published on 28 Jan. 2009 by J. Hull

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not unpleasant, but not that pleasant either!
This book begins with an unflinching description of a car crash victim's burn experiences, setting the scene for an engrossing redemption story as he regains his health and ultimately his humanity. Unfortunately, I found that as the main protagonist became less reprehensible, he also became far less interesting.

The initial interludes with Marianne Engel...
Published on 13 Aug. 2009 by Chris Stiff


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not unpleasant, but not that pleasant either!, 13 Aug. 2009
By 
Chris Stiff - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
This book begins with an unflinching description of a car crash victim's burn experiences, setting the scene for an engrossing redemption story as he regains his health and ultimately his humanity. Unfortunately, I found that as the main protagonist became less reprehensible, he also became far less interesting.

The initial interludes with Marianne Engel detailing a medieval story are quite compelling, and the serial nature of the narrative - left open-ended for chapters at a time before being picked up by her again - keep you reading. But I found around the time of the story set in Japan, my patience was being tested. The individuals in the vignettes were just TOO full of piety and unconditional love that it made them seem weak and frankly a little pathetic! The unnamed "hero" of the story too seemed to get more wet and uninteresting as the novel went on.

I'm afraid Andrew Davidson also suffers a little from "Dan Brown syndrome" in that he exhaustively mentions everything that he has researched, however much it may interrupt the story's pacing. This includes far too much detail on a dog's pancreatic disease (!!) Needless information is given as clearly Davidson doesn't want his hours in the library wasted (fair enough really).

This book did have its good points - I enjoyed the first half, and its descriptions regarding the hospitalisation and treatment of burn victims was stark and gripping (and made me want to stay away from any kind of combustible material forever!). However, this can't really sustain the plot arcs, and as the story continues it weakens and begins to meander until you start to lose interest.

Overall, I quite liked the book, and it certainly wasn't unpleasant to read. It kept me nicely occupied on my holiday, and had some good moments. On the other hand, it didn't conclude in a very satisfying way for me, and left me wanting a bit more meat on its bones. I think Andrew Davidson's second or third book may be the one that REALLY gets his name known - as it stands, I think this one is more of a dress rehearsal.
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239 of 268 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gargoyle, 28 Jan. 2009
By 
J. Hull (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gargoyle (Hardcover)
After the slight disappointment earlier this year from Nick Harkaway's debut novel The Gone-Away World, I was a little skeptical about reading another new writer because I often find too many flaws ridden throughout the pages. However, The Gargoyle is another case entirely. In fact, the book is so well told that I just can't find a single fault. It really is quite possibly the most "perfect" of books I've ever read - and I'm not one to lavish praise on just anything. It's so rare that I will read and not try to change sections for my own personal endeavor, but reading The Gargoyle was refreshing - a strange word to use perhaps considering Davidson's knack for graphic description, particularly on his delineation of how the human body burns. It was refreshing because it was original, and even now a week after reading I am finding it hard to start another book because I am still emotionally involved with The Gargoyle. Our nameless narrator happens upon a vision while being high on drugs and booze where a swarm of burning arrows are heading towards his car as he drives along the cliff edge. He crashes down the gauge and eventually catches fire, leaving him a monster but alive albeit in the care of the burn ward at the hospital.

The story entails the once beautiful man during his hospital rehabilitation after the incredible survival of the burning wreck. Along the way he meets Marianne Engel - a woman who he initially believes to have come from the psychiatric ward. She is a carver of Gargoyles, tattooed, eccentric and scraggy and she comes to visit regularly telling him stories of long ago, from ancient Japan to medieval Germany, Italy and the vikings of Iceland. She also claims that the two of them were lovers in the 1300s - her being a nun at Engalthal Monastery and him a warrior wounded from battle (no wonder he thought she was crazy). As our narrator is brought back to life by his newly found friends at the hospital he is also brought to love and so his story goes much deeper than the tales he "believes" to have been weaved.

I've tried not to give too much away, so that you can read it for yourself because you really must. A truly remarkable piece of work; ambitious and taunting, yet so beautifully told. If you don't believe in love now you will after this, and you might even get the urge to buy a gargoyle... though I doubt it. A modern masterpiece.
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79 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong debut, 23 Oct. 2008
By 
R. E. Quinn (Great Britian) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Gargoyle (Hardcover)
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This was a well written debut novel from a talented writer.

The interesting device of never revealing the identity of the narrator is a quirky plot point.

The Gargoyle of the title is the narrator, a handsome young man who while driving stoned and drunk one night crashes his car into a ravine and is burned in the resulting fire. He finally awakens in a burns unit to find his body has been ravaged by the flames and he has entered his own version of hell. It is during this period that he meets Marianne Engel, a renowned sculptor who stuns him by suddenly annoucing they were lovers seven hundred years ago in Germany and she has been searching for him since then.

The narrator is sure that Marianne is delusional and the fact that at their first meeting she is actually a patient in the physicatric ward does support that but after her release she continues to visit him and their relationship grows.

It is during these time that she begins to tell him the story of their first meeting and also occasionally seems to throw in seemingly random other stories as well. Even after his release from the unit when he goes to live with her the stories continue until finally they all come together and they both complete the journeys they have been on him to self redemption and her to final peace.

The author has chosen a large subject to tackle for his first novel, the question of what is love and how it endures and what one is prepared to do for it, mixed in with self realization and redemption, can one persons love be so strong as to drive them on through endless lifetimes for seven hundred years searhing for the one they lost?

Was this the best book I have ever read? Well no. Will it change my life for having read it? Again no. Is it a well written absorbing read with well drawn characters? Yes. Would I recommend it? A definite yes.

The measure of an author for me is whether they have engaged me enough to want to read other work by them and I can say that Andrew Davidson has done that with the Gargoyle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange but compelling, 28 Feb. 2012
By 
JJ (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
I have just finished reading this book, given as a gift and not one I had heard off.
It does have an intriguing cover and the pages have a black border giving it an old underworld-type look.
It is a rambling story where the main character is an ex-porno filmstar, he is the main voice of the story but not the only one.
He is horrifically (really horrifically) burned in an accident and you learn things about the bodies reaction to terrible burns and the experts way of dealing with the aftermath, that you really did not want to know. (However, with this knowledge one would hopefully become more accepting and caring of people who have terrible disfigurements.)
His only visitor is a rather 'mad' woman who is a sometime-patient in the psychiatric ward. She brings him a gargoyle (she is a sculptress) and accurately describes a scar he has had on his body since birth and yet there is no way she should have known about it.
She visits him often and begins to relate stories that tell him about who she is and how they met once many hundreds of years back in time. So is she really mad or what?
The story jumps from his life, to her life story, to her stories of other characters, who will play a part in his final recovery. It relates her completely obsessive behaviour but also her complete acceptance of how he looks now.
He begins slowly to relish her every visit and their relationship grows.
It loses a star because there were times I wished I could just get it finished and yet I give 4 stars because once you were in it, it was hard to put down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and evocative, 8 Jan. 2012
By 
Bess_Wheat - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
This is a book that will keep your attention and remain with you long after you read it. Don't be put off by the length of the book or the strange dark edged pages as I was. It never feels like it should be shortened and after reading it, I wanted more! I was completely hooked by the inventiveness and originality of the plot which gave no clues as to what direction it might be headed.

The Gargoyle is beautifully written and I was taken aback by the grotesque imagery.(Which I enjoyed quoting to anyone who'd listen.) The detailed descriptions of his painful treatments in hospital are particularly shocking.

I loved the character of the narrator and the sarcastic tone drew me into the novel from the first few pages. We follow his journey of recovery from horrific burns. His hospitalisation force him to re-evaluate his existence with a little help and encouragement from the mysterious Marianne Engel. During her visits to his bedside, she weaves tales of lives far removed, yet ultimately intertwined, with theirs. Through these stories, he becomes open to real love and the possibilities of acceptance of himself and his situation. He learns to relate to others in a deeper way than in his former life of appearances, drugs and superficiality. He sees himself as greater than the being he is now and slowly starts to believe in the transformative powers of love.

I was very impressed with this novel and loved the way Davidson portrays the characters. It is not often a book encourages me to go to bed early every night just so I can read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very unusual but intriging book, 1 Dec. 2009
By 
This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
Oh my God, I am not too sure how I feel exactly about this book. In a way I loved it because it was so unusual as a genre. What I did love about the book where the love stories Marianne told in the middle of the book. For many people reading this book, it you can survive to page 52 or the end of the second chapter, that is when most of the horrific details of burnt victims subslide and the plot begins.

Possible Spoilers!!!!!!!!!!!

However, this book does have its flaws because at the end of the book so many questions were still left unanswered. For example how has Marianne lived for 700 years, was she reincarnated or just stuck in the body of a mid-age woman; when she went into the ocean (i.e. when she died) where did she go to?, did she go to one of the Hells, did she go to her 3 masters, did she go to heaven?, is she waiting somewhere for him? (i.e. the narrator) like vicky is waiting for tom, how are the other people in the story from the 13th century her friends, where did she meet them and how do they know her? She knew she had only 27 hearts left and the last one would be for our narrator and she worked like a maniac because she was being pushed to finish sculpting but Marianne was desperate to finish so that she would die (if you remember at the beginning of the book, she told our narrator that "the problem with people like us is that we dont die properly, so now that she has her lover back, why was she so desperate to die and part with him? etc

I cant seem to figure out how I feel about this book but nonetheless I am very glad that i have read this book. I just felt that all the answers to some of the questions raised in this novel was not answered. However as the first novel ever written by this author, he did a wonderful job and maybe his next book would even be better, I would be looking forward to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Review on The Gargoyle, 4 May 2009
This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
There has been a lot of hype about this book and whenever there is a lot of hype I either want to desperately read the book or I am put off. For this book I wanted to read it.

The thing that appealed to me instantly was the lack of blurb on the back of the edition I bought. All I knew was it was about a man who was suffering from major burns whose life was turned upside down by Marianne Engel - a quite impossible stranger. I loved the openness of this synopsis. Anything could happen!

I don't want to spoil the plot for you and give away too many secrets but the plot of this book is one of its many strengths. It keeps you interested and reading until the end. The beginning of the novel I found to be particularly engrossing due to the engaging narrative. The narrator suplements descriptions of his accident with snippets of his past. I read the first 100 pages so eagerly they were a blur! The last 100 pages were equally engrossing with a real countdown to the finale. I do believe there could have been more made of this countdown and of the actual finale. Such a big, epic novel really deserved a bigger ending.

The middle of the book was interesting. The way Andrew Davidson weaves the past with the present is done skillfully and Marianne's extra stories are interesting. The penultimate 100 pages did become a little repetitive and I urged the novel to move forward a little quicker but maybe that's more to do with my poor attention span!

So if this book is as good as I say it is then why did I only give it 4 out of 5? Well firstly, I've read this book, I've finished it and now it sits on my bookshelf, forgotten. A 5/5 book really needs to live with me even after the last page has been turned. The characters are well developed but maybe not enough for me. The second reason is because of the writing. There are some beautiful moments in here but there is also some very over indulgent writing that is so flowery and generally over written that it detracts from the essence of the book.

All in all a good book which I do recommend to readers. C'mon, you've gotta give it a go after all the hype!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque, haunting and compelling - a powerful debut, 9 Sept. 2008
By 
Cartimand (Hampshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Gargoyle (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
**** some spoilers ****

I deliberated for some time whether this undeniably impressive debut novel merited the full 5 stars. It's not 100% perfect I argued. A few of the author's similes come over as somewhat strained ("the engine turned over like a grouchy bear", her hair like "Tartarean vines") or even tautological as in the "skeleton's ribcage" (surely that's only one step removed from a skeleton's skeleton?) But Davidson acknowledges these shortcomings with a throwaway comment about "ridiculous metaphors", thus diffusing my criticism. Next, I certainly didn't warm to the main character at first. A selfishly hedonistic porno star, serial liar, womaniser and drink and drug addict, our unnamed "hero" seemed to owe more than a little to the late John Holmes! But, he ultimately finds a satisfying form of redemption, so again, the author may be excused. Finally, the use of different fonts for different characters may strike you as a bit gimmicky too. Most notably the bitchsnake - the (admittedly clever) personification of pain, who seems to use a Dymo lablemaker to express herself! But, the sheer effectiveness of the motif is such that I can certainly excuse the author this minor conceit as well.

Enough quibbling though. Within the first 30 minutes or so of reading The Gargoyle, I was utterly hooked. Having been through a serious car crash myself (although thankfully having escaped the ensuing inferno), the frighteningly vivid description of the accident grabbed me at a visceral level ("a car crash seems to take forever" ... "in a split second, coming to the panicked conclusion that this is gonna hurt like hell"). The long and excruciatingly painful reconstruction and recovery process are expertly depicted, to the extent that I almost felt voyeuristically guilty for staring at a cruelly disfigured victim. It's not all grim going though. There is much black humour contained within The Gargoyle's black-edged pages. For example, I laughed out loud when the author mischievously inserts a couple of incongruous items in a long list of victuals, just to check whether I was still reading. There is perhaps just the merest hint of caricature about some of the players - notably Jack and Gregor, but they still convince as vibrant, rounded characters. The real star though is Marianne Engel - the enigmatic and possibly/probably mentally ill woman who enters the main character's life during his rehabilitation. It is she who drags him back from a deep well of self pity and from fantasies of an elaborate (and foolproof) suicide. Her perfect bedside manner, weaving fantasies (or are they really memories?) of love in medieval Germany, Viking era Iceland and ancient feudal Japan, restores the will to live. This is clever stuff indeed, as parallels between the ancient storylines and the present become apparent! A few flashes of realisation even hit me well after I had finished the book.

So was Marianne merely delusional and disturbed or was something far more profound and transcendental at work? You decide. Davidson leaves matters perfectly balanced. This is a remarkably powerful book which will stay with you for a long while and, minor quibbles aside, is fully deserving of 5 stars.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 26 Feb. 2009
This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
I think this is the first book I have ever reviewed. I am no great writer but felt the need to to let others know how great this book is.

I was blown away from the first few pages. On page two I knew I would love the book, the writing style is fantastic and while the descriptions in the first chapter were a little gory I just had to carry on reading.

The mix of romance, history and fantasy made the book so special. I enjoyed reading Marianne's stories and really looked forward to the next one in the book. It almost felt like it was two books in one. Brilliantly written, like no other story I have read before.

I will be passing this on to everyone I know.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive., 5 May 2009
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This review is from: The Gargoyle (Paperback)
I can't help being very impressed by this novel. I'm impressed by its originality, complexity and internal coherence. I'm not normally into fantasy and, to be honest with you, I approached this book slightly suspicious. I was expecting some sort of very complicated story, full of medieval links and mysteries. I couldn't be farthest from reality. "Gargoyle" is a very enjoyable reading, funny sometimes and very entertaining, where of course there are references to medieval times, but presented in a very pleasant manner, never boring, never out of place. As typical of this kind of story everything has its own meaning that will be revealed to you only in the very end, so you'll never lack stimulus to go ahead. And also as far as the fantasy side of the novel is concerned, I can assure you that it doesn't have the upper hand over the realistic one. Davidson very carefully mixes the two aspects so that you'll never be too sure which one to believe in. And when he writes about totally unrealistic experiences, he very carefully stresses that they're happening under drug's effect.

Regarding the plot, you'll find information about it everywhere, so I don't bore you with unnecessary details.
Strong recommended if you want to be entertained, amused, and you don't dislike an hallucinative and exotic touch. And also if you are extremely romantic and you believe in eternal love!
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