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The Gargoyle - General Discussion - not 'spoilered'

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I'm 172 pages into this and halfway through Chapter XII. After a shakey start where it seemed that Andrew Davidson's only object was to shock his readership this has settled down to become unputdownable.
I'm really enjoying the story and all of the historical details. I like the way the narrator talks to his readership and has his little jokes. A description of a meal including Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (spelt correctly too).

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I finished this last night and I have to say it was utterly fantastic. It tells the story of an nameless ex-porn star who ends up suffering horrendous burns after losing control of his car. In the hospital he meets Marianne who tells him they were once lovers in medieval Germany and over the course of time tells him their story and also other tales of love. Not a single word was wasted in this book and the writing was perfection. I loved the way all the stories connected together and the reader really had the chance to get to know all the characters in depth. The beginning was gruesome but I felt it was necessary as it gave a wonderful insight into how the narrator came through his horrific injuries to how he was at the end of the book. I know many people say they wished a book would never end but in this case, for me, it's 100% true, I could of gone on reading this forever. I really can't wait to see what Andrew Davidson writes next and if its 1/2 as good as this it would be brilliant. Thankyou Canongate, this is one of the best books I have read in a very very long time. 5+ stars from me. :D

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I've made a start on this, breaking my immense enjoyment of "A Fraction of the Whole", which is a compliment in itself! :D

The grisly start does do it's job well, and I loved the fact that the author refers to his plot ploy within the narrative, thought that was a nice touch. The story is skipping about quite a lot to begin with though, gives the impression that the narrator doesn't really know how to begin telling his story (I believe this is a deliberate style choice), maybe it will settle down as the storyteller settles into his tale.

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Wait till you meet Marianne and she starts telling her stories! I enjoyed them immensely!

 

I've made a start on this, breaking my immense enjoyment of "A Fraction of the Whole", which is a compliment in itself! :D

The grisly start does do it's job well, and I loved the fact that the author refers to his plot ploy within the narrative, thought that was a nice touch. The story is skipping about quite a lot to begin with though, gives the impression that the narrator doesn't really know how to begin telling his story (I believe this is a deliberate style choice), maybe it will settle down as the storyteller settles into his tale.

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Wait till you meet Marianne and she starts telling her stories! I enjoyed them immensely!

 

Yes I have been enjoying Marianne's company. She's quite a mixed up interesting character, but she also seems to have a purposeful manner that overrides all of her strange conflicts.

I can't decide if I actually like the burns victim character yet...

The story has me hooked though, and I think it's beautifully written so far, at one moment quite flowing and easy the next jarring and uncomfortable.

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Still going strong! In fact it's turning into one of those books you think about when you can't spend your time reading it. So being at work is more annoying than usual.

 

And I agree fully with Marianne's stories, they are beautiful in so many ways, but at a guess I think they have more to do with the overall story than mere interludes.

 

Another surprise it that I'm beginning to enjoy he relationship between our burn victim and Gregor, the shrink. Might just be a male thing though, would be interesting to hear others thoughts on that relationship.

 

I'm about 170 pages in and everything seems a little bit too rosy with his recovery going well, so I'm expecting things to go downhill again.

 

Another question for other readers: Do you find yourself accepting Marianne's "madness" because the narrator accepts it easily?

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Another question for other readers: Do you find yourself accepting Marianne's "madness" because the narrator accepts it easily?
Yes! I am totally ignoring her madness and just accepting the fact that it happened.

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I agree Billybob, a quite exceptional book. Certainly one of the best I have read in a long time. Just finished and need some time to get my thoughts in order, but wow, definitely wow.

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I finished this last night, I know I enjoyed it but I need a little time to gather my thoughts.

 

Can I assume that when I do post my thoughts that I don't have to spoiler every little thing I say. Can we assume that if people are reading this thread that they are here to discuss things openly? It will make things a little easier I think.

 

There is quite a lot to discuss! Including those newspaper reviews in the post above. A little harsh I thought, but I'll get into that properly later.

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Can I assume that when I do post my thoughts that I don't have to spoiler every little thing I say. Can we assume that if people are reading this thread that they are here to discuss things openly? It will make things a little easier I think.

 

Having a look at the other Canongate threads, I note that spoilers weren't used, so yes, I think it is appropriate to the nature of this thread that it should be a free-flowing discussion.

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Still thinking about this and trying to order my thoughts. Marianne's "madness", her stories (especially Sei which I found incredibly moving), her method of sculpting are all haunting my mind.

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I don’t have too much access to a computer at the moment (only at work sadly) so I have written my thoughts separately and have just pasted them into the thread – this does mean that as yet I have not had the chance to read everyone else’s posts but I will, I promise and will then join in with the discussions. First and foremost however I wanted to get my thoughts posted……

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

 

I have to admit then when I first received this book I doubted very much that it was going to be “my cup of tea”. However, the first pages immediately grabbed my attention as they were very hard hitting and graphic.

 

The description of the process a burns victim has to go through was detailed and had obviously been researched a lot. I didn’t find it horrid or gratuitous – in fact it helped me empathise with the arrogant, hedonistic main character. So much so that I did actually feel sorry for him!

<o></o>

I loved Marianne, I thought her storytelling was superb and I could almost imagine her narrating each story to me. I found her stories very moving and in some way they felt real!

 

Whether or not everything she said was true or whether she believed it to be so I’m not sure. I’ve pondered on this thought for a while now. I’d like to think that it wasn’t all her “madness” and that she had lived for 700 years. Marianne’s sculpting left me ragged – I almost felt as if I’d been up for days with her.

 

Once I’ve read everyone else’s posts I’ll know what everyone else thought.

 

To sum up, I loved this book. I found myself wishing I was reading it whenever I wasn’t, wishing my commute was longer so I could carry on reading. The book grabbed me, pulled me in and carried me along with it and I was sad to finish it.

 

I have now passed it onto MOH and I hope that he enjoys it as much as I did.

<o>

A great first novel and five stars from me, without a doubt *****</o>

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Finally rescued it from the sorting office this morning - not going to be able to read this week (off on holiday and suspect it will be worth half my luggage allowance!), but will get on with it when I'm back home - I promise.

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I finally finished this yesterday. It was really enjoyable and very clever. I liked the way that (most of) Marianne's stories eventually linked up and became part of the whole. I had thought that some perhaps only had relevance during the author's journey to and through Hell but on reflection I think they also related to Marianne's story. The link between the author incident on the frozen sea ice and Marianne's on the frozen river was very good, especially because of the order in which it was related to us.

 

I thought the end was handled very well but wish we knew for sure how Marianne released her hearts (especially the early ones). Where they all via carvings?

 

My biggest criticism is the start of the book. I know the narrator wants us to realise how bad his life was before the accident but I still feel that the shock factor was more for effect than adding any value to the book.

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Well, finished this yesterday - many thanks Canongate. Here's what I thought:

 

This book shocks at every turn – and there are plenty of turns. The first thing is the appearance of the book - quite unique in design, a wonderfully illustrated dust jacket and unusually black edged pages blended well and gave an indication of the captivating, brutally shocking tale which was to unfold.

 

Secondly, the story itself. Demanding your intention from the first page, the writing is almost poetic as it described in split-second, stomach churning detail a car accident involving the narrator who suffers horrific burns, loss of various body parts, a sickening awareness of his helplessness – all whilst still mercilessly conscious. However, it does not stop there. Andrew Davidson wants the reader to feel it all. It is horrible, revolting and unbearably painful in parts, but incredibly hypnotic.

 

The Gargoyle takes the reader on a spellbinding adventure, introducing various colourful and deeply courageous characters whom have all shaped the life of the nameless present day victim – none more poignant than Marianne Engel. His sculptor and unacquainted lover.

 

I enjoyed this book primarily for its incomparable plot and intelligent narrative but almost conclusively for taking me on an outlandish journey of discovery, tragedy and unequalled love. One criticism perhaps would be aimed towards the end, the narrative becomes a little too outlandish and I struggled a little bit – but would nonetheless give this debut novel four stars. :D

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I've been putting off posting my thoughts for a while now, I finished the book about a week of so ago, if not longer. I've left it this long to see if the story would stick with me, and it has to a point. But I'll come to that later.

 

A lot has already been said about the grisly beginning. It is very graphic and quite shocking but it is also wonderfully written. It's written in such a way that part of my brain was telling me that what I was reading was awful and disgusting, while the more twisted side of my brain was urging me on in morbid fascination to see how far the descriptions were going to go. Probably says more about me than the book!

The start does set the scene though, because the book as a whole does have a bit of discomfort running through the plot. Most of my discomfort was with unanswerable questions about some of the characters and unresolved issues. I usually like it when an author lets me make up my own mind about things but with this book I needed a bit of closure.

 

I found the real strengths were the following:

 

The heavily researched and well told recovery of our unnamed burns victim. Again in enthralling and graphic detail. I found a very detailed plan for suicide especially chilling. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to write that section and what effect it might have had on the author.

 

Marianne Engel's stories (Unfairly criticised in one of the newspaper reviews, that have links on this thread, I thought). The main complaint in that review was the "romanticised" way the stories were written. I thought the prose reflected the stories well. I got a real feeling that I was being told each story orally rather than reading them (if that makes any sense at all.) My personal favourite was the story of the Japanese glass blower. I thought it was quite wonderful.

 

The duel storylines of past and present relationships running alongside each other.

 

The crowning glory was the invention of Marianne Engel. She was/is such a (if you'll excuse the phase) well sculpted character. Beautiful, ugly, simple and complicated, she is a whirlwind of contradictions and kookiness.

 

The section of the book I found most inventive and enjoyable didn't feature Marianne though. The best part of the book for me was the burn victim's withdrawal vision/dream. His journey through hell (Dante's hell I assume) with the help of each of Marianne's historical friends. I found the whole thing captivating, the author really let go and went for it.

 

When I finished the book I was prepared to give it a full five stars but I do have a few issues. And most of it has to do with the things I remember most about the book.

This should be a book about the power of enduring love, how love can transcend time, how a life isn't worth living without it. Reading that back it sounds a bit Mills and Boon, but Davidson handles it well. Unfortunately I thought he just fell short. That feeling of enduring and unbreakable love should have been the main thing I remembered after reading it, a nice warm feeling that made me feel glad to have read it. And to a point I do, but it's easier to recall the graphic descriptions of disfigurement and violence.

I was also a little disappointed with how the modern relationship between Marianne and the burns patient in the present tense. There was an interesting writing challenge here, how do you describe love between people without any physicality to express it between them. I never felt convinced of the love between Marianne and our stranger, not like I was between the couple in the past.

It's a minor qualm but I would have liked to have seen that challenge attempted more forcefully. The fact that the burns patient ends up being cared for by a relative stranger just wasn't resolved beyond, at best a lover from the past and his eternal soul mate, at worst a deluded mental patient. I guess that question is an interesting one to be left hanging, but as I said towards the beginning I needed a bit more closure with this one.

 

I never usually do this but I'll give it 4 1/2 stars. I can't quite bring myself to give it the full five but four seems somehow wrong. It is an amazing book by a debut novelist, it's well written, interesting and thought provoking, but I think a few interesting opportunities might have been missed.

 

Thanks again Cannongate.

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I've said before that I didn't like the explicit start to the book and after reading others comments feel the need to clarify.

I don't have a problem with the graphic description of the burning and subsequent treatment. I found that very well written and clinically descriptive.

I think the actual burning itself, while shockingly detailed was not particularly horrific to me. Unlike Krey I particularly liked the suicide plan. I found the multi redundancy very amusing.

 

On reflection, I realise that what upset me was the author's childhood memories and the blasé way he describes the abuse of a young girl in order that her parents could get drugs.

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I'm going to send the link to this thread to Andrew, he's on tour here at the moment, so probably won't respond till later, but I'm sure he'll be following the discussion.

 

(FWIW, my favourite of Marianne's stories was Sigurdr's. That was true, true love.)

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I am still reading this, having had to put it aside for a while due to study/work commitments, but I feel that I should post my thoughts on it so far. The dramatic start might have put me off but didn't because it was described in such minute, almost clinical, detail. This, and the subsequent account of the treatment received by the burns victim, again clinical in its level of detail, had me feeling empathy for a character whom I do not think that I would have liked or empathised with had the author introduced him as he was during his pre-crash days. For me, the shocking opening worked very well. I like Marianne and do not consider her to be mad (so far). She strikes me as being more a colourful and extremely eccentric character but I can see why someone like her could be assigned the label mad/schizophrenic by society. I love her stories (again, so far).

 

My impression is that this is an extremely well-researched, intelligently written and original novel. Once I have finished it, which should be soon, I shall post my thoughts on the remainder of it.

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The section of the book I found most inventive and enjoyable didn't feature Marianne though. The best part of the book for me was the burn victim's withdrawal vision/dream. His journey through hell (Dante's hell I assume) with the help of each of Marianne's historical friends. I found the whole thing captivating, the author really let go and went for it.

Strange - I found this the least enjoyable part of the book.

 

My favourite story of Marianne's? I think it's the Francesco's Black Death story (the first of Marianne's I think).

Then again, Sigurdr's was up there too :rolleyes:

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still thinking about this book and was reminded of it again when reading Stephen King's Duma Key in which an accident victim learns to paint but then is taken over by sinister forces (it is King after all). His painting sprees are reminiscent of Marianne's sculpting. Large bursts of energy followed by extreme hunger and exhaustion. it did make me think about the characters again and I really don't think that the romance between the main characters was lacking. The missing sexual intimacy merely highlighted the intensity of the bond in other ways and was a good contrast to the more "normal" relationship of Gregor and his initially tentative romance.

 

I also found the suicide plan somewhat amusing. :rolleyes:

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I thought this was an amazing read, and I definately gave it 5 stars. I can see why some readers would think Marianne's tales were romanticized, I just read each of them as if it was a fairy/folk tale, something to be told orally and passed down. I would have loved to have been their and heard them 'told'.

As everyone said the beginning was shocking, it was the idea of putting your own head against the top of the oven and hearing your skin crackle and burst that made me feel queasy. However I felt that it was very effective, in making the intensity seem real.

I believed Marianne's story, and stopped seeing her as schizophrenic early on.

The writing, the research and the level of knowledge reminded me of both The End of Mr Y and The Time Traveller's Wife.

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