I don’t do book reviews. I don’t have the language. I can, however, make a recommendation when I’ve finished something that I really liked. “The Gargoyle” by Andrew Davidson is the best book I’ve read so far this year.
It is a beautiful book, the cover and binding is a piece of art. The black edged pages and the medieval/gothic cover: Golden arrows on a deep burgundy background. In the centre a flaming heart with the bannered words:
LOVE IS AS STRONG AS DEATH, AS HARD AS HELL
How can Kindle ever replace a real book?
“The Gargoyle” is in essence a love story that spans many lives over many generations. It’s the story of Marianne Engel, a nun who forsakes her vows for love in medieval times and again in a later life. Let’s call her love “Mr. Crispy”. I couldn’t remember that he had a name throughout the book in his most modern reincarnation. He’s not a nice person at all. Mr. Crispy is a drug-addict, a pornographer who drives his car over a cliff at the beginning of the story. He is burnt beyond recognition in the accident but lives. More I’m not going to tell as it might spoil a great read for someone else.
“The Gargoyle” is tightly written, unflinching in its description of the horror experienced by a burn victim. Then there is the enigmatic and strangely tattooed Marianne Engel who carves gargoyle’s and sleeps naked on the stone to free the creatures hidden inside.
The book starts with a quote by Meister Eckhardt, a German mystic. I thought Eckhardt was fiction but he was very much alive in the thirteenth century:
Love is as strong as death as hard as hell
Death separates the soul from the body
But love separates all things from the soul.
“The Gargoyle” refers to Dante’s “Inferno” on many occasions;
“Voltaire wrote that Dante was a madman who had many commentators, and whose reputation would continue to grow mostly because almost no one actually reads the Commedia. I suggest the reason that so few people read Dante is because no one actually needs to. In the Western world, Inferno is everyone’s idea of Hell; as literature, only the Bible is more deeply woven into society’s collective consciousness”
How true. I’ve had a copy of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” for years and I know some of the better known passages almost by heart. Have I read it? No.
“I have spent time there, in this grand empty space between memory and desire, creating this cracked empire of sentences in which I now live” is a sentence towards the end of “Gargoyle”. How heartbreakingly beautiful.
I hope that Hollywood dont attempt to turn this into a film. I prefer the image of Marianne Engel painted on the canvass of my imagination. A mixture of Helena Bonham Carter and Angelina Jolie. The madness of Carter in “Sweeney Todd” and the strange beauty of Angelina for her body, her eyes and for the tattoos.
When I did a Google search on Meister Eckhardt I found the following passage from his writings:
“The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away, but they're not punishing you, they're freeing your soul. If you're frightened of dying and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth.”
Read “The Gargoyle” if you are inclined towards the mythical and magical. Visit the books website
http://www.the-gargoyle.co.uk./ to find out more.