Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Gargoyle - just get past the "love" bit

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. (Canongate Books: 2008) An epic story following the redemptive experiences of a burn victim after he meets a delusional sculptor who professes to have known him in a previous life.
A book touted on the front cover as a “romance”. Strike one
A big sticker proclaiming it as a recommendation from the Richard and Judy book club. Strike two.
A first sentence that reads Accidents ambush the unsuspecting often, violently, just like love. Strike three.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t touch this book. But it was recommended to me by two people whose taste I trust. And something about judging books by their covers (and the inadvisability of such a course) started ringing in my ears once I was presented with a copy of it.
So I decided to take a deep breath and give it a go.
I often worry that a large part of enjoying a book is where you read it and the time you have with it. I read much of The Gargoyle in three or four hour spurts, quietly in my living room (which is one of my favourite places). Reading a book in a place that gives you the space and the peace to really read it always seems to make it better.
I said I worry about this. Because the inverse is true too. I worry that I’ve missed the point of some great books because I read them mostly in ten minute spurts between stations. I worry that I like some very average books more than some amazing ones because I read them on a beach, far away from an office.
But, good thing or bad thing, I read this book in a good place. And I enjoyed it.
There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t have. It’s not that the idea of love bores me. I’m very much in love myself. It’s just that artistic representations of it tend to take a wrong turn somewhere and end up in Gooey-ville.
To an extent, my initial fears were proven justified. It is indeed a love story. And I can certainly picture Richard and Judy talking it over on the couch.
But let’s get past why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this and explain why I did (and why I think you will too). This book is about 500 pages long, and there was plenty of time for it to win me over.
It’s a thoroughly well thought out story. In fact, it’s about six or seven well thought out stories. The way they interplay with each other is clever. The way the true, central story is slowly revealed is expertly achieved. It’s a long book, but I didn’t feel its length until I’d turned the last page and realised just how enveloped it The Gargoyle world I had become. Yes, the love becomes a little eye-roll-tastic sometimes, but on the whole it had me feeling more empathy than scepticism.
And it’s this guy’s first book. Which makes me more than a little jealous. It’s wildly ambitious. This guy wasn’t just trying to knock out 250 pages and get a stake in the ground for his career as a novelist. I know nothing about him, how he managed to pour so much into a book like this, how the bills were paid in the meantime, but it must have taken a great deal of belief in his talents. And it’s belief that wasn’t misplaced.
So, worthwhile of your time? Worth picking up and dedicating a few hours to?
7’s a score I tend to try and stay away from. It’s the ultimate sit-on-the fence score. It’s “I really liked it, but I’m not about to buy the t-shirt”. I enjoyed reading it. And I’m glad I did. It suppressed the stoic Brit in me for a couple of weeks. But he’s back. And he’s finding it difficult to reach above a 7 for a love story right now.


Anonymous said...

You old romantic you!

Anonymous said...

I would have given it an 8, but then this isn't my blog.

"it was recommended to me by two people whose taste I trust"- Who was that?

At least one of those people sounds very handsome...

Anonymous said...

...and I hear the other one's extremely attractive, too.

The other book you should look at is The English Patient. It also features two storylines and a burns victim narrator. Sadly I don't have a copy of that for you Gav.


Unknown said...

An absolute 10/10 from me. Can't envisage how the story could be more beautifully crafted, more intricately plotted or more emotionally charged. Wonderful stuff.

Gav Collins said...

Just got back from hols. Thanks for all the comments.

Just couldn't stretch to a ten I'm afraid. It was good, don't get me wrong, but the best book I've ever (or am ever likely to) read? That's what it takes for a ten. Harsh, I know...

And yes, two impossibly good looking recommenders, I'm sure. Just finished I Lucifer too, also recommended by one of the same sources. Lots of books on hols though, so may take a week or two before I get around to reviewing that one.

Something to look forward to.

Nigel C said...

Didn't like the character and also had problems getting pass the graphic discription of the burns. Back to me Bernard Cornwall.

Gav Collins said...

Nothing wrong with a bit of Cornwell! I might break the Sharpe box set out again...