The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is an odd book about odd people. I considered abandoning it several times, but persisted. I wish I could say I was rewarded by a fantastic ending, but for me it was just marginal.
The narrator suffers a nasty car accident as the story begins, and Davidson walks us through the long recovery of the severe burn patient. Interwoven with the medical realities, is the magical realism of his companion Marianne’s life and stories about their love spanning many lives.
Despite the horror of his situation, I never connected emotionally with the narrator. Perhaps this is because Davidson never chose to reveal his name. In truth, though, it’s also because I thought he was a self-serving ass.
I also found it tiresome and distancing that the narrator (and Davidson) always use the first and last names of Marianne Engel. Given how intimate the relationship between the two is intended to be, using both names is stilted and frustrating.
You have to know that I love magical realism and fantasy. Unfortunately, I found the magic lacking here. The stories were interesting but again didn’t connect for me emotionally. I liked a few of them, most notably the Japanese story of the father, daughter and her lover who are trapped in a feudal lord’s riddle.
Because Marianne tells many stories, the book has lots of characters. Most just have brief appearances. Davidson fleshes out the characters involved in the narrator’s burn recovery, and I enjoyed them the most. His physical therapist, psychiatrist, and physician play a large part in balancing the heavy intentions of the reincarnation stories. They were my saving grace in getting through this book.
The word that keeps coming to me is overwritten. The author uses a cadre of gimmicks throughout the book, including various fonts. I found the font use to be insulting to me as a reader, since its nudge assumes I don’t have the imagination to give characters an appropriate voice.
Davidson’s writing feels like a debut novel, which it is. A stronger editing hand could have thinned the book by a hundred pages, giving it better pacing and a more compelling plot. I’m leaning towards a 2.5 star rating, which I’ll round up to three because I like Davidson’s general plot idea and his minor characters.