The Gargoyle (novel)
Vintage Canada Edition, 2009
|Publisher||Random House (Can) Doubleday (US) Canongate Books (UK)|
|Publication date||August 5, 2008|
|Media type||Print Hardcover|
|ISBN||ISBN 978-0-307-35677-2 (US), 1847671683 (UK)|
The Gargoyle follows two different time lines, one in the form of a story [or ‘memory’], and one in real time. In real time, an unnamed atheist and former hardcore porn star with a troubled childhood is driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Hallucinating that a volley of arrows is being shot at him from a forest, he swerves off the road and into a ravine. There his car sets alight, and he begins to burn. Just as he thinks he will die, the car tips into a creek and he survives, though badly burned. While recovering, the Burned Man becomes addicted to morphine and believes there is now a snake in his spine. Hatching a suicide plan, he gets a visitor named Marianne Engel, who is a sculptress suspected of having Manic Depression or Schizophrenia. Humoring her at first as she believes she knew him several hundred years prior, they soon begin a friendship/ relationship, and he moves in with her. Throughout, Marianne reveals their ‘past’, and tells tales of love and hope, inspiring the Burned Man to live.
Their ‘past’ story begins in fourteenth-century Germany, at a monastery named Engelthal. A baby is found at the gates, and taken in and raised as a nun. The young sister Marianne is soon found to possess incredible language skills, understanding languages she has never been taught. One day, a man is brought to the monastery. He is severely burned, except for a small rectangle over his heart where there is an arrow wound. The man is a member of a Condotta, a mercenary troop. The nuns believe the burned man is too injured to live. Marianne however looks after him, and he survives. Finding love with each other, the Burned Man and Marianne flee the monastery and begin a new life together, getting married and conceiving a baby.
One day while out shopping, they see the troop that the Burned Man was once a part of. If he is found alive, he will be put to death for being a deserter. Seeing an old friend of his, Brandeis, still with the Condotta, Marianne lures him back to their apartment where the two soldiers reunite like brothers. Brandeis too is eager to escape, so they hatch a plan. After a few months, Brandeis has escaped, and comes to live with Marianne and the Burned Man. But trouble follows as they are hunted down by the Condotta. Heavily pregnant, Marianne and the two men try to escape. Eventually they are caught. Brandeis is executed and the Burned Man is tied up and burned alive once more. In order to spare him pain, Marianne shoots an arrow through his heart, exactly through the first wound. However, the Condotta see her, and chase her over a frozen river. Falling through, Marianne encounters three ‘presences’, who claim they are now her three masters. As penance for the sins she had committed, she was told she now has a chest full of ‘hearts’, that she must give away, which she does in the form of sculpting. She will have one heart left for her lover, who must ‘accept it, and then give it back’ to set her free.
As their love story unfolds past and present, Marianne also spins romantic tales from across the centuries and around the world that defy pain and suffering and bring hope and succor to her deeply damaged friend. But as he starts to fight his demons and the morphine-addicted serpent embedded in his spine, Marianne begins the count down of her hearts...
Janet Maslin of The New York Times reviewed the book, saying "So for all those who enter here, there is no need to abandon hope. Lessons are learned, love is found, spirits are restored, and faith is revealed, all in the overheated cauldron of Mr. Davidson’s imagination.
- Maslin, Janet (July 31, 2008). "Beyond Fiery Gates, All That an Inferno Allows". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.