Burned and deformed, the narrator of Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle thoroughly plans an elaborate and definite suicide upon his release from the hospital. He was once a beautiful man with a successful career as a porngrapher. He knows he hasn't led a good life and without his looks, he's left alone and penniless. He has nothing left to live for...until a beautiful yet mentally ill woman, Marianne Engle, enters his room one day and tells him they were once lovers 700 years ago.
Of course, he doesn't believe her but her presence helps keep his mind off his pain and the horrible treatment he must go through. Marianne entertains him with the story of how they met when she was a scribe at a famous convent in Germany during the 14th century. However, as she tells him their story she also tells him tales of doomed lovers, tales of love and sacrifice. The narrator finds himself working harder to get well so he can hear the rest of the story.
Upon his release, he moves in with Marianne where he witnesses her frightening, frenzy as she sculpts gargoyles in her basement. She claims her 'three masters' demand that she give her 27 hearts to the monsters in the stone for God. She works to exhaustion and can't manage to take care of herself. Now this injured man must take care of this sick woman, while he battles demons of his own.
I can't say enough how much I loved this book. At the beginning, I was reeled in by the *narrator's story of how he ended up in the hospital. It was difficult to like such a nasty person other than to feel sympathy for his situation. As his psychiatrist tells him, he thinks he knows more than anybody else. It's an annoying trait but his natural curiosity opens the door for Marianne and a change within him begins.
I enjoyed how it was written with the jumps between the present and the past. However, I found myself skipping pages to see how the story Marianne told would turn out. Bad me! Needless to say, it was a page turner. The research for the novel was impressive. Not only the medieval research but also the burns and the treatment. (Just a heads up here....the description of his burns and the treatment he receives is pretty graphic.) I was struck by imagery throughout of snakes, gargoyles, Dante's Inferno. Davidson wove that theme of The Inferno through the novel. It has a deep meaning for many of the characters.
Despite seeming like a dark novel, it's actually a story about love and redemption. Although Marianne is the main focus of his new life, I enjoyed his friendships with Gregor, Nan, Sayuri and even Jack. There is so much hope in this book. I'm so glad this is a Canadian author because Canadian books have a reputation of being gloomy. In fact, I'm bumping a book out of the Canadian Books Challenge and putting this one in it's place. It will be hard to beat as my favorite of the year.
*Usually a nameless narrator gets on my nerves but I didn't mind it here.