Friday, April 6, 2018

Audiobook Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Publisher: Random House Audio
Pub. Date: August 5th, 2008
Length: 19 hours , 15 minutes

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Contemporary Fiction / Romance / Dual Timeline


An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.

Already an international literary sensation, the Gargoyle is an Inferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.

What Did I Think About the Story? 

I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have picked this book up to read/listen to if it wasn't for my boss talking it up and loaning me her audiobook copy. I hadn't heard of the book before and, honestly, it seemed from the synopsis like it would have a heavier fantasy element than I typically read. But, CDs in hand, I started listening to it on my commute and found myself completely immersed in this remarkably unique and encompassing listening experience.

Per the synopsis, much of the beginning of the story is spent within the mind of an incredibly narcissistic narrator. He fully admits to being a snarky, self-centered drug-abuser who loves purposefully morphing into different people in order to trick as many women as he can into sleeping with him. He's just the worst sort of human and it's hard to find anything to like about him. Then he has this horrific accident that results in months of recovery in a hospital. This might sound strange, but I found the vivid details given to his injuries and the (often tortuous) remedies employed to help him absolutely fascinating. I never really thought about what it takes to try and heal a burn victim nor how painful that process is for the patient. It's a terrible and grueling thing to have to go through and, with the intricate details given my the author,  you get an incredible sense of just how bad it would be for the person going through it.

During this arduous process we meet Marianne Engel, a possibly crazy artist who changes our narrator from the moment she walks into his hospital room. Marianne is such a fascinating character and through her the reader is sent through time to see various tragic love stories throughout history, including, supposedly, a long ago love story between the narrator and Marianne herself. She weaves such a magical spell over all that the narrator doesn't even know that she is effectively bringing him back to life and shaping him into a much better person than he ever was before. But his love for Marianne doesn't necessarily save her from believing her fate is determined by God and it was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking to watch him try everything to change her as she had changed him.

The narrator of The Gargoyle, Lincoln Hoppe, was perfect for this story as he easily maneuvered between the jaded, snarky character we first meet and the calmer, more settled and much kinder character we are left with. It helps that the story is so wonderfully vivid throughout and I was amazed at how much detail - from realistic history to the healing process for burn victims to the obsessive madness of someone with mental illness to so much more - the author was able to present. There is one part of the book in particular where, while being weaned off drugs, the narrator goes straight into Dante's inferno and the reader is brought along on a terrifying adventure like no other. This part alone could have been it's own story yet is only one of many incredible components of this novel.

Part of being such a wonderful novelist, however, is making your readers love the characters and the world you've created and it was this point in particular that made me really disappointed in the ending. I felt like I had invested so much in this story and been taken along on such a magical and all-consuming ride that the way the author choose to end it just made me feel sort of cheated. I can see why the author made the choices he did, however I felt like everything had been leading somewhere else and I really, really didn't think it had to end as it did. I don't want to say anything else to spoil the story, but I will leave it with the fact that the ending is the only thing keeping this from being a 5 star book for me.    

The Gargoyle is a fascinating look at pain, growth, love, art, mental illness, and faith unlike anything I've read before. It's worth a read for anyone as it's got so much to appreciate, as long as the reader isn't squeamish about graphic language or details. I definitely recommend it as an audiobook as well as you are sure to spend hours enraptured by the authors words.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's okay. I like that it represents Marianne Engel as well as the fiery heart that is symbolic of some things that happen in the story, but other than that it's somewhat plain given how complex and intricate the story is. There are just so many possibilities of what the cover could showcase!

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I borrowed the audiobook CDs of The Gargoyle from a coworker and all opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the stories, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, see Goodreads HERE.



  1. I should add this book to be re-read. I {LOVED} this book way back in the day, and I missed the opportunity to meet the author :(
    - Krys

    1. Oh wow, it would be so cool to meet the author!! It's such a unique story so it would be fun to pick the author's brain a little :). THanks for stopping by!!