I began to get an idea why the publisher paid $1.5 million for this novel (the highest ever paid in Canada) after the first few pages. Andrew Davidson is able to tease stories out paper with his pen like his character, Marianne, is able to tease gargoyles out of stone with a chisel. Through the mouth of Marianne and with images straight out of Dante's Inferno, he tells 700 years of stories of Marianne's reincarnations which have included whispering nuns, fiery arrows, callous mercenaries, deadly plagues, lost ships, gregarious Vikings, and being buried alive.
It's with a man's cocaine-influenced fiery car accident and his subsequent treatments in a burn unit that the novel itself begins. However grotesque this situation really is, the author is able to find the perfect words that transform the story into a work of art. The car is falling into the pit of Dante's hell and the burn victim's bed is in the belly of a bleached white skeleton.
So here we have a man who was orphaned at birth, who was brought up by meth addicts who eventually blew up their house, and who later became a model and then a porn star to make ends meet on the street (Of course, after sustaining 1st-4th degree burns over most of his body and having a penectomy, there's not much of that career left.)
As the man is lying in his hospital bed thinking of a spectacular way to kill himself involving hanging, jumping from a building, a bullet to the head, an overdose, and a razor blade to the wrist all at once, a psych patient wanders into his hospital room. She swears she's known him for 700 years, tells him this is the 3rd time he's been burned, says she knows how he got the scar on his chest, tells him stories of dragons and monks, and leaves him a grotesque (not to be confused with a gargoyle) that she herself carved for him. Then she proceeds to tell him stories about the various lives they've met in.
This is a masterpiece of a book indeed. I've not seen so much symbolism and layers of story in a modern book in a quite a while. I found myself lost within the stories within the story and gasping for air at their astonishingly horrible and beautiful endings. This is definitely a book worth careful scrutiny and more than one read.Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.