Yesterday didn't work out nearly the way I'd planned. While I was hopped up on Mucinex and Alka Seltzer Cold, I also had obligations. My mother purchased a leather couch and loveseat at a moving sale down the street, so we had to move out the old furniture and welcome the new with help from my cousin, his wife, and two of their three kiddos. It was great to spend some time knocking a volleyball around out in the yard with the girls when the moving was done, and Daisy got to make some new friends. I also picked up a $10 mountain bike at the sale, so I have something to ride in the mornings when I don't feel like walking.
Once everything was squared away, I finally got to start my Gargoyle reading around 4:00 in the afternoon. Nevertheless, because it's such a quick read, I still managed to polish off over 200 pages. I woke up early this morning just to get a few hours of reading in while Daisy was sleepy and before I had to go teach. I finally polished off the last page just a few minutes ago after lots of work stuff and general distractions. While it's probably a horrible idea to write a review so soon after finishing a book, I CAN'T STOP MYSELF! I'm going to gush, so just sit back and be ready.
This book is simply overwhelming. I mentioned in my previous post the few quibbles I had with the writing, and if I'm being analytical, those same things still bother me. As I moved through the book, however, those quibbles became far less important and I was just carried completely away by the story, the characters, the historical bits, the adventure, and the heartbreak of it. When I compare this book to The Time Traveler's Wife, it's not anything overt I can use in the comparison. It's the feeling of the book. The characters' love story grabbed me by the hair, the heart, took hold of my chin like a stern granny and looked me straight in the eyes, stopped me dead in my tracks, and AFFECTED me.
I was particularly overwhelmed by all the research that must've gone into this novel. Historical bits pertaining to Vikings and the Engelthal Monastery and medieval Italy made the story come to life in a way that I haven't experienced in a very long time. I was also overwhelmed and delighted when I discovered that a great deal of this book parallels, makes allusions to, and overtly integrates the plot of Dante's Inferno. I first read Dante's masterpiece as a young teacher. I was 22, I was fresh out of college, and I stepped into a 10th grade classroom in North Carolina almost completely unprepared. As we worked our way through the semester, I had the bright idea to tackle Inferno. Most of the other teachers thought I was completely nuts to bring in something so complicated, but we dove in and the students loved it. We spent a week or two reading it aloud and talking about it, and I think they were better behaved in those two weeks than ever before or after. Not only was it gross--which automatically translates to "interesting" for high school students--but it also appealed to the majority of my Christian students as a way to talk about their beliefs through the lens of literature. My non-Christians loved it, too, and it opened up great conversations both philosophical and historical. Despite my precarious relationship and ongoing struggles with religion, Inferno touched me with its vivid descriptions and Dante's deft writing. Likewise, The Gargoyle is very spiritual, and I found that it made me think deeply and often.
I won't recount the plot of The Gargoyle or Inferno because you can go to any website for that, but I will tell you that I'm impressed that Davidson tackled such a sprawling story with vigor and devotion. It took him seven years to research and write the novel, and I'm just downright impressed in every conceivable way.
I have no doubt this book will hover near the top of my favorites list this year, and I venture to say it might even be a new addition to my all-time favorites list. This is a rich, involving story that I plan to return to in coming years, and only the best, most inspiring books can claim that place on my shelves and in my heart.