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

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★★★★★  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.

However...

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.

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Andreea
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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!

Patrick Sean Lee
Guest

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!

Ryoma Sakamoto.Japan
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I hope that your Christmas would be enjoyable and may the essence of Christmas remain always with you. Merry Christmas and Happy New year!
Ryoma.

Wiki
Guest

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 ( https://www.instagram.com/tayo_home/ ) 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.

Regards
Wiki

Ryoma Sakamoto.Japan
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Laura Thomas
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Oh boy. This is now a must read. You described so much that I look for in a read. And, as usual, you made your review entertaining!

Jackie B.
Guest
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… Read more »
Hanna @ Booking in Heels
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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 🙂

Wattle
Guest

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!

Jen
Guest

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

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate
Guest

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!

Lashaan Balasingam
Guest

This sounds incredibly moving, touching upon soooo many fascinating themes. I haven’t read anything that sounds remotely like this one, but you do sell this pretty well. 😉 Wonderful review as always Evelina.

Geybie’s Book Blog
Guest

Awesome review, my friend. I’m not familiar with this genre but I’m curious now because of your amazing review. Love Howe you structure it too. ❤️

Olivia Roach
Guest

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!)

Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity
Guest

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.