Fiction, Illness, Loved-it, Magical realism

Beauty And Ugliness In Love: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson One Of The Most Beautiful Books I Read This Year

This book has been amazing. So amazing, that as usual, I let a half a year pass before I even thought of reviewing it. Months later, I still get vivid flashbacks from this unbelievably strong, beautiful, and yet visceral story.

The Gargoyle

Check out on Goodreads
Get at Book Depository
★★★★★  5+++ stars

A man suffers a terrifying car crash and ends up with serious burns, losing any kind semblance to who he looked life before the crash, or even a human being, for that matter. Deep in despair, he randomly meets a clearly unhinged, but genius sculptress, and what follows is their incredibly unlikely love story that spans not just the current lives they are living, but, regardless of any sense and sanity, their lives in the middle ages. It’s an incredibly beautiful, touching, and yet also terrifying and heartbreaking story which will not leave you cold, whether you like it or hate it.

A Love Story That Isn’t Quite Like A Love Story

No, it’s not a romance book. At all. How do you write romance completely outside of romance? The love story could only be called ‘weird’, and yet… Incredibly beautiful. Particularly touching because of the subtle magical realism element, how their love spans ages, how they are remembering each other. How feelings are translated into prose and poetry, and how you don’t need to see things said outright to know they are true. Also? FEELS. Loads of feels. I cried. The end of this book is unbelievably beautiful, meaningful and heartbreaking. I can only wish to experience something like this in another book.

The Prose In This Book Is Basically Poetry

I read it translated, but from what I’ve heard, the prose is just as beautiful in the original. It was mesmerizing… If not for the contents, I would have kept reading this book purely for the writing. It’s probably what gives the story half its magic and colors. This is the kind of writer that plays with the sounds as much as the meanings, and it’s amazing.

What’s more, the writing is so refreshingly self-sarcastic (I mean, it’s aimed at the self), at the same time so colorful and flowing. It’s not easy to write trauma, pain and physical suffering so humorously, and at the same time – so fluently, so… harmlessly. It’s so atmospheric, the writer knows how to craft a feel for something by using the right types of words, sticking to a certain theme. It paints a very vivid canvas. And despite that, I know that I snickered reading every second page. It was just written so well.

Important Themes And Questions

This book ponders many important questions. Although some of them might be triggers, but they are also important to talk about: trauma, body image and the loss of it, religious symbols, being an orphan, faith, illness, self-expression, asexual love, trust, mental illness, repentance, suicide… What particularly resonated with me was the love without any sexual element. Is sexual love the only valid love? Can couples be couples without anything sexual between them? Whether they can’t physically, or just don’t want to? And why is this love so looked down upon in society, thought to be lesser than sexual love?

It Seems Very Well Researched

Part of the story happens in the middle ages, and I felt like it was incredibly well researched. The lives of nuns in a nunnery, the beliefs in saints and saintly men, the way books were being preserved…  Just the whole feel of that day. It was quite an experience to read it.

Its Beauty Is Hard To Pinpoint

I don’t understand what this book was doing to me, but it’s as if I was being put under a spell. As if it was speaking to something behind me, beyond my body and mind as a shell – as if it was speaking to my soul. Like that dream that you can’t quite place as you wake up, but you still remember how it spoke to you, although you don’t read know what it said or what even happened. This book speaks to you in a secret language that is beyond you. It’s so very strange to be observing a dialogue between the magical words and something in you, of you, but not consciously you, to be a bystander in this magical event. And you’re absolutely baffled and mesmerized by it. At least I know I was.


I must warn about the triggers. This is a very strong book, vivid and colorful, and I didn’t say ‘visceral’ without a reason. This book talks about physical trauma, and does so in very much detail. For those of you who are sensitive readers, it might be uncomfortable. There are other triggers as well – talk of porn, drugs, suicide. For me though, all of this made the book only more colorful. I believe the author was playing with contrast between beauty and ugliness, pain and bliss, love and hate. While this works wonderfully for the story, keep in mind that it’s not always easy to read.

Have you read anything like this, with flowing prose and a variety of topics? If you’ve read similar books, what would be your recommendations for me?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

36 thoughts on “Beauty And Ugliness In Love: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson One Of The Most Beautiful Books I Read This Year

  1. Oh, this sounds perfect – it’s been long since I read a book that made me cry.
    But I did read a book that captivated me in a spell recently: Among Others by Jo Walton, when I was reading it I was pulled inside the story – and I did miss my bus stop when I read on the bus.

    Happy holidays!
    Andreea recently posted…Happy HolidaysMy Profile

    1. Wow, I am googling that book then 🙂 thanks! And yes, The Gargoyle was amazing – strange, but magical. I hope you like it! I’d love to see what you thought when you read it, so if you still remember to, drop me a link of your review if you post one 🙂

  2. You’re stunning review brought back memories of all the incredibly descriptive and uber-poignant scenes that made me love this book, Evelina. Thank you again!

  3. Hello ,

    I saw your tweets about animals and thought I will check your website. I really like it!

    I love pets! I have two beautiful thai cats called Tammy(female) and Yommo(male).
    Yommo is 1 year older than Tommy. He is like a bigger brother for her. 🙂
    I have even created an Instagram account for them ( ) and probably soon they will have more followers than me (kinda funny).

    I have subscribed to your newsletter. 🙂

    Keep up the good work with your blog.


  4. This is a really fascinating post, Evelina. It’s obvious this book really connected with you. What is the original language and what language did you read this book in? It doesn’t sound like my sort of book, honestly– I imagine the beautiful words would completely wreck me, particularly with some of these triggering topics. There isn’t much which I find emotionally triggering, but when I do find something (such as suicide) it destroys me.

    The summary and your review imply that there is some sort of multiple-life aspect to this book. Is this true? Can you explain any more of it without too many spoilers? I’m curious.
    Jackie B. recently posted…#AnneReadAlong2017 : Rainbow ValleyMy Profile

    1. Yes yes YES, this book is one you HAVE TO read. I mean you liked All the Light We Cannot See. Now THIS ONE really does have flowing prose!! I’m sure you’d love it, it’s just so strong! I actually don’t think you’d feel too bad reading it. Yes, it talks about all those tough things, but you know what? It also talks about them with humor. And that makes A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. Despite talking about hardship and trauma, the book is very lighthearted.

      I think the original language is English, but mom brought me this book from the library, so it was in Lithuanian. I could not believe the quality of the work the translator did though – purely amazing. It needs a personal touch to translate like that. I was honestly impressed. Which is why I wonder if the English version has the same feel. The writing in this book actually gave me solid feelings, smells and emotions. So very vivid! I know you don’t see things in your mind when you read, and I do, but it’s not always the same – this book could compare to others in a way like… If it was a movie, this would have the contrasts and colors way up, you know? Plus, I think language really matters to you because you don’t imagine things as you read, which is yet another reason why you’d really really enjoy this one!

      And yeah, it’s basically about a love story that happened, sort of.. throughout several ages. Magical realism, done well. Rebirth and whatnot, I’m still not quite sure, but it was BEAUTIFUL.

      1. I’m with you that it takes a special kind of translator to make the magic of lyrical prose pass a language barrier! I always question the translations I read: Is it close enough? Is this the same message? What beauty am I missing?

        When I get to reading this, I’ll make certain we chat about the differences between these translations. Or, uh, your translation and the original?

        I am fascinated by the dichotomy of trauma and lightheartedness. I didn’t realize that could be a thing until I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Now I want to seek out all sorts of books which explore horrible things in this way. I think I could really handle it. Did you expect this going into the book?

        I am TOTALLY intrigued. Lyrical writing, complex interesting plots! Yes, please! I wonder how I’ll take this book considering I don’t see images in my head, too.

        Well. This must be moved up on my reading list if only to chat with you about it.
        Jackie B. recently posted…Building Better Book Clubs: An Insider GlanceMy Profile

        1. I actually had no expectations about this book 🙂 that’s because I had to recollection about even wanting to read it 😀 mom brought it back from the library.. and I had marked it as to-read on Goodreads several years before that. Maybe it’s the best when you have no expectations at all 🙂

  5. I’ve had this book on my TBR for SO LONG. Like, literally years and years.

    Every so often I pick it up, remember what it’s about after invariably forgetting… and put it back down again.

    Thanks for the review. It sounds wonderful and maybe I’ll finally, FINALLY give it a go now 🙂

  6. Oooh I own this, but haven’t read it yet (what a shock). I actually forgot it existed until I saw the title of your review and went ‘I STILL NEED TO READ THAT!’ and facepalmed haha

    Your review has inspired me to go looking for it…and maybe even read it!
    Wattle recently posted…Top 5 Wednesday #2My Profile

    1. That’s pretty much what happened to me as well, expect I had it on my goodreads wishlist, and mom brought it back from the library. How surprised I was when I looked it up 😀 you absolutely NEED to read this! It’s an amazing book. Absolutely worth it 🙂

  7. I loved this book! Someone recommended it a while ago and then it was in my library. I’ve recommended recently but the mention of porn seemed to put them off. Such a shame as this is one of those books that stays with you and taught me the difference between a gargoyle and grotesque

    1. Yeah, that book has a few sensitive parts, like all the violence, and of course, porn. But those things are so not central… It’s the main idea that’s important, and the soul of that book is just AMAZING. I’m so glad you loved it too! Did you find the writing brilliant as well? I read the translation, so I’m wondering if the actual English was that good too (the translation was brilliant, my hat off to the person who translated it into my language…)

  8. Oh this really sounds like a wonderful book! I love unconventional love stories and this one absolutely looks like one. Asexual relationships don’t get enough spotlight so I’m glad the author went there – and in the middle ages, no less! Talk about progressive.
    I have to say I’ve never read anything like this before but it does sound beautiful and impactful. I’m so glad you loved it, Evelina 🙂 Wonderful review!

    1. Thank you 🙂 yeah, I wasn’t even expecting a love story, when I was going into this book (I didn’t really know much about it and didn’t really read the blurb, I just saw I had it marked as to-read for years so I trusted my own judgement :D)… I’m not one for sappy love stories, so it was such a pleasant surprise 🙂

      I don’t know if I could really call this asexual – I don’t know when this applies, as the characters have had sexual relationships in their lives, and it’s not due to not wanting it, but the main character has just suffered trauma and physically will never be able to. I haven’t really read up on “what counts as asexual” (to put it simply), because people often get hurt at labels. But yes, I absolutely agree – there are so many ways to live a life, and I was just so happy to see this portrayed and, well, validated in a book. It gets tiring to always just read sexual love stories. I’m not a fan of those myself 😀 I love soul love <3 heh. And this was JUST exactly that! But hey, actually the non-sexual bit happens in current day, the whole love story is sort of... timey wimey... wibbly wobbly.. 😀

      But it is absolutely beautiful and I sure hope you get it read it 🙂

    1. Thanks! This genre.. I think it’s probably literary 🙂 although some books are really hard to put into a genre! It’s a tough book to read, but the love story is just so unbelievably beautiful ;_;

  9. Now this book sounds like my kind of book. I’m someone who is very into the writing style when reading a book, and prose which has ties to poetry because of the way it reads is the kind I love the most, I think. I also really like books which dig deep and leave me thinking about the world at large or entirely mindblown. Thanks for the review (and the trigger warning!)
    Olivia Roach recently posted…18 Goals for 2018!My Profile

  10. This book sounds intense and I can see why it took you so long to review. With such a powerful story it can often be difficult to put into words why it was so good. I’d not heard of this book so I will be adding to my TBR immediately and will force my library to get a copy if they don’t already. It’s not my usual kind of book but the exploration of love and the plot itself sounds so good that I am so intrigued now.
    Becky @ A Fool’s Ingenuity recently posted…Sunday Summary // 06.01.2018My Profile

    1. Yep, indeed 🙂 but I guess the positive thing is that with all the books I’ve been stalling… The end of the year was all 5 star reviews, basically 😀 because I just stockpiled the reviews-to-come on good boooks…

      Hahah, funny about the library 😀 they might actually have that book! I think it’s relatively well know, and it’s also backlist.

      If you do read it, send me a link to your review, I’d love to see what you thought 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge