I think you get it.
Yes, I adore this book. I would have to admit that it’s partially because I had very low expectations in the beginning because the synopsis didn’t really sound like the type of thing I usually enjoy reading. But my mind was instantly changed the moment I read the first page. I was hooked! So the fact that I did a complete 180 about my expectations really surprised me, and I can always respect an author who can accomplish that.
The opening scene not only sets the stage for the entire story (our lead was tragically burnt to a grisp in a car accident, forcing him to spend the following months in a hospital where he meets Marianne), but it is also connected to a tragedy he faced in a previous life, which is also connected to Marianne. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and my words are probably confusing to you.
This novel explores the idea of seeing history as a series of webs and past lives. LONG AGO, Marianne and our grotesque (our lead is unnamed, but he calls himself a grotesque after he is burnt because of how hideous he is. For the purposes of this blog, I will call him such) lived a past life together full of love and adventure. They met after he was burnt in battle, and Marianne helped him recover. Their story tragically ends with our grotesque dying in a second fire at the hands of their enemies. Marianne claims to have walked the earth for centuries to find him, and now she finally has. She meets the grotesque in the hospital after his car accident and tells him all about their past life together. She also tells him about the people she has met along the way and their stories. Their end is just as tragic this time around, but that’s what makes it beautiful.
Okay, so I don’t want to give away much more than that. The ending needs to be a surprise!
So back to the opening scene…
I loved how descriptive the whole accident was; it really felt like I was seeing and feeling everything our grotesque did as he was burning in that car. My heart was racing because you don’t know how bad this is going to end up. The following chapters where Davidson explains in detail how our grotesque was treated in the hospital with all the tests and skin grafting gave me the chills! I had no idea what a burn victim’s treatment involved. It’s so intense… you just feel like you’re in the bed with him dealing with the dame treatment. Davidson really knows how to properly describe a scene; enough to make you feel like your involved, but not so much that you feel like the actual story is paused (much like George RR Martin… he goes on for like three pages about a damn hill! Ugh get on with it! Am I right?!) It’s refreshing to find an author that can maintain that balance so well.
I loved Marianne as a character. Being diagnosed with manic depression and schizophrenia, you’re constantly questioning the validity of her tales. She claims to be hundreds of years and to have lived a past life with the grotesque, but these stories could just be a part if her condition. Even though there are subtle pieces of proof that back her story, it’s still never truly proven. The grotesque indulges her ideas and stories because he loves her, and he also finds it entertaining. But it’s fascinating how he never once 100% admits to believing her. As the reader, we are left wondering if it was all just in her imagination. Even though he stories or so detailed, an the fact that there is not a single doubt in her mind that she is right, you can’t help but partially believe her. But like the grotesque, our own idea of truth and reality will forever cast doubt. But his love for her is unwavering, no matter her state. I love how they both found beauty in one another even though they both find themselves damaged.
I also really enjoyed all the secondary characters that are introduced, both in Marianne’s compelling stories and with the people trying grotesque meets after his accident. Everyone is so compelling; Davidson basically wrote a dozen short stories that intertwine with Marianne’s and the grotesque’s overall novel. Every person is important and completely thought out. I was never bored! Normally when I am forced to listen to the tale of a secondary character, I can’t wait for it to end so I can get back to the main characters. But with Davidson’s characters, I can’t wait to dive deeper into their world, even if it’s just a physical therapist or a nun from the past.
Speaking of nuns, I must say that Davidson’s use of religion really took me by surprise. Normally I find religious content somewhat boring because it rarely pertains to the action of the story (unless you’re Dan Brown or Ken Follet… they REALLY know how to make religion an interesting topic in a fictional novel!), but Davidson did a lovely job at making Marianne’s religious past important and entertaining. Two thumbs up, Davidson!
Lastly, I would just like to say how much I loved Marianne’s profession! The fact that she earns a living carving gargoyle statues is just mind blowing! It was really cool exploring a type of artist that most people tend to forget about. Creating statues, specifically gargoyles, seems to be becoming a lost art. I wish more people took the time to make such grotesque things into such beautiful masterpieces. And of course, the way he connected her profession of gargoyles to our leads mental and physical state as a grotesque himself is just fascinating. Marianne is truly a fascinating spirit!
So if my review didn’t make it clear, I’ll state it again:
This is a BEAUTIFUL book.
I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did! Happy reading, Book Babies!