“Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.”
Quite a catchy opening line, isn’t it?
This is how The Gargoyle starts, and it was enough to keep me reading.
The story begins with a car accident – the survivor, a man, is brought to a hospital, his body covered in severe burns. While going through endless medical procedures which only make him wish for a quick death, he receives a visitor, a strange woman who claims they were lovers a long time ago. Several hundred years, in fact.
Her name is Marianne Engel (not quite angel but almost – I like that) and just like a modern Scheherazade, she starts telling him their love story. Her tale is interspersed with other beautiful love stories, like the Japanese girl who made amazing delicate works of art out of glass and every time one chipped a piece away, the word aishiteru (‘I love you’ – in Japanese) would be released into the air, or the woman whose husband was lost at sea and she always waited for him to come back.
Slowly, his thoughts of suicide fade away and the burned man finds himself looking forward to Marianne Engel’s visits and the stories she brings him. Each day becomes less painful than the last, and while his body is slowly recovering, the burned man remembers his past and cannot help compare his former life to the one he’s forced to accept after his accident.
What about Marianne Engel and her story? What hides beneath that intriguing exterior, who’s underneath those tattoos?
“Her hair was like Tartarean vines that grow in the night, reaching up from a place so dark that the sun is only a rumor.
Ocean waves tossed around her irises, like an unexpected storm ready to steal a sailor from his wife.”
How come she knows so many things, old things, terrible things, and why is she speaking about the hearts she has to give away? And why does she go into a frenzy sculpting those stone monsters, the gargoyles?
The stories within stories kept my attention fully engaged – I only wish I had read Dante’s Inferno before so I would understand that specific part in the book better, but that’s to be done in the future. The sentences are beautifully constructed, the references to other cultures intriguing, the description of the burned man’s wounds and treatment believable (they are probably accurate but to be honest I have no idea – nevertheless I was impressed with the amount of details about this aspect).
This was one of the best love stories I’ve read, a love that asks for everything and burns the soul like fire, a love that requires the greatest sacrifice: that of letting go. It made my heart sing and weep at the same time.
This book is a keeper. I will definitely read it again.
*read in August 2011