Did The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson change my life, open eyes to a world unlived, sweeten my lips until my last breath, well no. But was it an enjoyable read, fading the world’s troubles ,to refresh for the grind of job, and family-you bet it was. The story is essentially a rewrite of Beauty and the Beast but fellows don’t dismiss it as chick-lit. It’s your turn to say “I'll have what she's having” as it’s also skilfully weaves in comedy and mystery with twists.
The story opens with the unnamed narrator, an adult movie mogul and porn stud high on drugs and liquor crashing and burning in a car accident. To describe the pain and the impact he asks you to put your hand on a live electric element:
And hold it there. Hold it there as the element scorches Dante’s nine rings right into your palm, allowing you to grasp Hell in your hand forever. Let the heat engrave the skin, the muscles the tendons; let it smoulder down to the bone. Wait for the burn to embed itself so far into you that you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to let go of the coil. It won’t be long until the stench of your own burning flesh wafts up, grabbing your nose hairs and refusing to let go, and you smell your body burn.
I want you to keep that hand pressed down for a slow count of sixty. No cheating. One Mis-sis-sip-pi, two Mis-sis-sip-pi, three Mis-sis-sip-pi… At sixty Mis-sis-sip-pi, your hand will have melted so that it now surrounds the element, becoming fused with it. Now rip your flesh free.
The honest story of recovery from severe burn trauma becomes one theme of the novel. He is crippled emotionally by depression and self-loathing rooted an appalling childhood and drug abuse. He fired only by the hope of getting out of the hospital to finish killing himself. A strange woman from the Mental Heath wards in for schizophrenia and bi-polar break down befriends him and he sees her as a way out,
So you ask, what about the mystery element? Well as the recovery progresses she starts telling a myth-story that reveal deeper secrets or madness. It remains ambiguous until the end of the story if this is a supernatural story of eternal love or a natural love of two very screwed up people. Each time you think you have the line it will slip away from you. As light relief you also have a comedy love story about another couple linked to different historical myth/stories. But pay attention, as all the themes and story strands knit together to give you an unexpected ending.
It’s not a hard story to hold in your head as I snatched reading time from travelling around the country meetings in a very busy week. The clever plotting meant that the move between the now and then and between the characters backstories keep you interested and the writing build pictures for your mind to play with, parallels of the now and then from the morality of the narrator, to the role of friends and livelihoods also help to keep the pages turning.
I would highly recommend it, and if you and partner get a copy( it’s the credit crunch so time to share so you have spare) you could cuddle up on a cold evening. Sip wine and read aloud to each other by candle-light (well I would so ask him). It’s cleverly aimed at a broad market so expect the film (once they have sorted out the nude scenes-some hot and some very yuk!) in 2010 with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in the lead roles. You heard it here first!