For Weekly Geeks #16 Maree from Just Add Books interviewed me about my recent reading of The Gargoyle written by Andrew Davidson.
Maree - I've seen this book pop up on few book blogs lately, which is how I heard about it. How did you hear about it?
Joanne - I had seen some information about this book on the Random House/DoubleDay website and was really interested so when I had the chance to grab an ARC took it.
Maree - How would you rate the book's readability? Is it an unputdownable read, or a chore to pick up and read? What made you pick it up?
Joanne - For me this book was impossible to put down, but at the same time, I took my time reading in order to draw out my enjoyment. While reading it was nice to set it aside every once in awhile just to contemplate where the entwining stories were taking you and how they could possibly relate.
Initially I picked it up for the love story aspect. Amazon describes it as "An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time." That quote really got my attention as I love a good love story, but have grown tired of the massive amounts of predictable chick-lit available. I wanted more than just "boy meets girl" romance, I wanted a love story that made you feel something and The Gargoyle was perfect.
Maree - The editorial description on Amazon makes The Gargoyle sound like a fantastic, Gothic love story. Would this be accurate?
Joanne - Was The Gargoyle fantastic? In my opinion, yes, it was probably my top read this read. The true definition of a Gothic love story is a story that combines romance and horror, so The Gargoyle fits this to a tee. But it is so much more than this, it explores almost every facet of what makes us human – honour, redemption, personal beliefs, salvation, self-image, the mystery of the soul and the human desire to live and love.
Maree - How is the love story between the main characters handled? Is it convincing? Is there a strong sense of emotional truth?
Joanne - First off, I just need to clarify that I am a total cynic when it comes to love stories. More often than not, I am harrumphing through a romance saying to myself "oh please, like that would ever happen", I despise sappy chick-flicks and a lot of romantic chick-lit turns my stomach. For a love story to work for me it needs to be real, it needs to show the true emotional pain involved with being loved and loving. I want to truly feel that two people live and would die for one another and that they have a connection in soul, not just body. With that said, The Gargoyle was a completely convincing love story for me. The characters knew their love for one another was about more than just getting married, having sex and growing old together. Their emotions were always very believable even when they hated one another.
Maree - How engaging were the main characters, given that neither sounds particularly sympathetic. Was there room for the reader to empathize with them, given that they both seem to be scarred _ either internally or externally?
Joanne - Although the stories in the novel are fascinating, the characters are what truly bring this book to life. The narrator – unnamed throughout the entire novel – is at first not so likeable. He is a drug-addicted pornographic filmmaker, who crashed his car while drinking and driving. When first introduced he is in a burn unit recovering from extreme burns to his entire body, which of course, makes him not very friendly, happy, courteous or vaguely appealing. Marianne is the leading lady who brings out the best side of the narrator. Marianne herself is an intensely attractive character from the beginning when she saunters into the burn unit like the crazy lady she is (or at least she may be crazy). It is her involvement with the narrator that begins a very complex labyrinth of character development for them both. By the end of the novel, I felt as though I would do anything to see them find happiness, love or peace.
Maree - Given that the two main characters seem to be so strong, how well drawn were the secondary characters? Did they feel like real people, or two-dimensional characters?
Joanne - The Gargoyle is structured in such a way that all of the secondary players are actually characters from stories that Marianne is telling the narrator while he is recuperating. The main story is Marianne's which takes place in a convent in the 1300's. The other four tales she tells all involve certain characters experiences with love; a Japanese glass blowers, an Italian ironworker, an English farmer and a Viking boat woodworker/painter. Astoundingly, these characters are very well developed and original. They appear as strong and pertinent to the story as Marianne and the narrator.
Maree - The author, Andrew Davidson, has a piece on Amazon, where he talks about The Gargoyle being compared to The Name of the Rose, The English Patient and The Shadow of the Wind. Have you read any of these, and do you think the comparisons fit?
Joanne - I've only read The English Patient, and the only comparison that I feel relevant is that they both concern burn victims and their recuperation's. I found the book my thoughts stray to most while reading The Gargoyle was Dante's Inferno by Dante Dante Alighieri. The narrator is on a journey where he must travel his own personal hell, while facing many demons along the way. I think many of the ideas the narrator of The Gargoyle explores are similar to ones seen in Dante's Inferno.
Maree - Related question: what do you think when a novel is compared to another? Does it make you want to go and find those novels, or are you suspicious that the publishers are just trying to build the first novel up?
Joanne - I usually don't pay much attention to comparisons between novels or authors. It's like saying that an apple is comparable to an orange. Yes, they are both fruits, round, and have peels...but the differences far outweigh the similarities in my mind. Every author interprets ideas and writes stories differently so all books have their own original flavour (or at least I like to think so).
Maree - When you had finished the book, did you feel as though it was a good read? Did it stick with you for a while, or was it easy to move on to the next thing?
Joanne - When I closed the book at the end, I knew immediately that this would be a favourite of mine. I was completely drawn into the story and at times felt emotions as the characters experienced them. It definitely stayed with me for awhile and I was looking for a follow-up read that was light and easy because my thoughts were drifting back to The Gargoyle.
Maree - The Gargoyle is Davidson's first novel. Is it an assured, confident debut? Will you be looking forward to more of his books?
Joanne - The Gargoyle was one of the best debut novels I have read and I eagerly await more writing from this author, although I do feel that it will be hard to outdo this novel.
Maree - I get the impression that The Gargoyle could be atmospheric, and somewhat creepy. Is it? Would it be a good late night read, or is it an all lights on, daytime read?
Joanne - It is extremely atmospheric, but not in a haunted house scary way or in a way that can be escaped by reading with all the lights on. The Gargoyle explores the darker side of humanity and how to seek salvation in a way that will not leave your soul empty, so this can invoke thoughts that can be creepy even if you're reading it on a tropical beach while drinking a martini.
I will say that personally the descriptions of treatments that the narrator goes through while in the burn unit terrified me and made my skin crawl. They are graphic in description and quite accurate medically, but it is the way in which the narrator reacts physically and emotionally that is disturbing. This is human suffering that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.
Maree - I love nothing more than a good story that holds my attention, genre aside. Would The Gargoyle fit that bill?
Joanne - The Gargoyle definitely held my attention, and with the entwined stories, you get much more than just one good tale. I would highly recommend this book.
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