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Book Review: The Gargoyle

Many popular books these days feel like they were written at typing speed in the order the author thought the words.

I even like the cover

I even like the cover

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson took about seven years to write, and it shows.  This novel is hard to describe, harder to put down, and has been the nicest reading surprise of 2009 for me. 

Not really about the story

Books like Catch-22, Blood Meridian, and A Confederacy of Dunces aren’t really about the stories.  They’re about the experience.  Reading certain books is more about how it feels to read them than the plots themselves.  But something has to go on those dust jackets, so we get plot summaries.

The Gargoyle goes in this category where no summary really does it justice.  But it’s sort of the story of a former porn actor and junkie who gets into a car accident and is horribly burned.  Then he goes to the burn ward and spends forever recovering.  Along the way he meets a woman who sculpts gargoyles and tells him that once she’s sculpted 27, she’ll die.

Oh, and there are a lot of odd stories about Vikings, Chinese maidens, Dante, and a trip into Hell.

Also, the writing is really, really beautiful in places.  The Gargoyle surprised me on every single page, and not just because of twists and turns.  It was nice to see an author who crafted something meticulous.  This story could have been a disaster in the wrong hands.

Andrew Davidson did a great, great thing here.  I loved this book.  I rate it 900 burning gargoyle heads.

Best of all, it was recommended to me by someone reading this very blog.  I am in your debt.


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  • Janette September 18, 2009, 3:30 am

    Here’s a word of warning. If you have a significant other in the house who also likes to read, pick up two copies at the library. I picked up Josh’s copy to start reading and determined we could simply not share. We spent several hours not talking that weekend because we were both too busy reading our copies of the same book.

    • Spencer June 9, 2012, 4:19 pm

      You could have avoided this problem by marrying someone that does not read. There are other repercussions, but you never fight over books. You married a book addict; you should have seen this coming.

  • bigwood September 18, 2009, 6:49 am

    Your comments on “how it feels to read a book” hit home. I read a book called “China Lake” by Anthony Hyde several years ago. It was the mood he created that stuck with me.

  • Sheryl Tuttle September 18, 2009, 7:42 am

    Great review – I’m going to add Gargoyle to my “to read” list now! I’m a new reader to your blog and am enjoying it very much!

  • Positively Present September 18, 2009, 7:54 am

    Sounds like a great read! I’ve seen it at the store and contemplated buying it… now I’m going to have to! 🙂

  • Josh Hanagarne September 18, 2009, 10:35 am

    @Janette: It wasn’t THAT bad.

    @bigwood: I’ll look up China Lake. I’d also recommend “The Meadow” to you if you like these moody, atmospheric books. Thanks for the suggestion.

    @Sheryl: You won’t be sorry. At least not for reading Gargoyle. You may be sorry if you keep reading this blog:)

    @Pos. Present: Let me know what you think. It’s not real upbeat, but it’s still gorgeous.

  • Jessica Marie September 18, 2009, 10:53 am

    I can’t wait to read this book. From now on, perhaps all book reviews will be rated using the flaming gargoyle head scale. 🙂

  • Cutthroat Stalker (scott) September 18, 2009, 5:18 pm

    Sounds like an interesting read–I’m always looking for interesting books that are as much about the writing as the content.

    Loved The Meadow. I like Galvin’s other book, Fencing the Sky as well. I have most of his poetry also.

    Since you liked The Meadow, you might like another writer of the west, Mark Spragg’s Where Rivers Change Directions. It’s 14 autobiographical vignettes. The first 8 or 9 are especially amazing writing. (I don’t know if you do GoodReads, but I wrote a review for it there).

    Thanks for the heads-up on The Gargoyle.

  • Fitz September 18, 2009, 5:20 pm

    Nice review. Definetly peaked my interest. 900 burning gargoyle heads though? That put it over the top for sure. That’s easily 100 more than I’ve ever seen given to a book before!

  • Josh Hanagarne September 18, 2009, 5:43 pm

    @Cutthroat Stalker

    I’ll check out that Spragg. I do like him, but haven’t read Where Rivers…

    @Fitz: It deserves all 900. You’ll see!

  • Tim September 18, 2009, 8:16 pm


    I enjoyed your review here and I’ll echo what bigwood said about “how it feels to read a book.” I’ve never thought of describing a book’s story that way. Whatever the case, I will have to check into this. I’m reading the Alchemist (a quick read) and will soon be ready for my next work of fiction to start reading. Thanks again for the review.

  • Marcus September 19, 2009, 7:20 am


    Time for me to sink into another good read. Good I ‘bumped’ into your blog thanks to problogger. As one who have this fascination for the strange and sinister, this one becomes a must-read

  • Josh Hanagarne September 19, 2009, 8:23 am

    Marcus, please let me know what you think after you read it.

  • Josh Hanagarne September 19, 2009, 8:23 am

    @Tim: What do you think of The Alchemist?

  • Megan Horton September 19, 2009, 4:11 pm

    Sounds good. I’ll have to try it. I read some of the books you reviewed. I just read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I just got a notice that World War Z and 1984 were at the library on hold for me, so I’m doing ok. You don’t have to be ashamed of your sister! Unless it’s about something else

    • Josh Hanagarne September 19, 2009, 8:38 pm

      Megan, Megan, Megan, you’ll love it. I guarantee it, you deviant.

  • Marcus September 19, 2009, 9:55 pm

    Sure will.

  • Megan Horton September 22, 2009, 9:04 am

    I’m a deviant? Hmmm I never knew….

  • Rita January 5, 2010, 12:02 pm

    I’m in a book club and this book has been talked about lately and got rave reviews from everyone! After reading your review I moved it up to the top of my TBR list. I am making myself read all the books on my bookshelf that I haven’t read yet before I get another book but probably won’t happen – it never does!! I’m new here too and love your blog!