Sherlock Holmes and The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
A double-review since I have two things to write up, but also individual reviews because both works deserve them. First, Sherlock Holmes, a re-imagining of the classic character as a bit more rough-and-tumble, with a badass Watson at his side. They investigate a series of murders and supernatural happenings surrounding the mysterious Lord Blackwood. Thoughts:
- I like the re-thinking of Holmes as a bit of a goof plagued by his observant habits. Jenny and I agree that casting Watson as younger, more athletic, and more intelligent fits much more with the idea of a medical army man than do the dopey or fat or old Watsons we see more often.
- The ambiance had the grimy feel of cinematic late-Victorian London. Of course, real late-Victorian London probably had its own, different problems. There were no clumps of feces stuck to Holmes and Watson after their swim in the Thames, for instance. Jenny and I wondered how much of the environment was green screened and how much was set work.
- I like the alchemy and other secret-society stuff woven throughout the movie. Entertaining and properly provocative. The effects and prop-work around it reminded me a lot of Sleepy Hollow.
- I don’t have any complaints about how they depicted Holmes as a figure. The idea that he’s more of a rogue, more able to fight and rumble, etc works just fine. And all those old hoary Holmes movies had fight scenes too, they just didn’t have all the new fx to apply.
Solitary review of The Gargoyle, a novel about a former pornographer burned nearly to death in a car accident. He meets a woman, possibly crazy, who says that they were lovers in the 14th century and that she’s been waiting for him since. As he works his way toward health again, she tells him stories of lost loves and their own past. Some thoughts:
- The novel is well-written and compelling, but not something I would have picked up without the recommendation of a friend. I can see why a lot of book clubs have read and talked about this book — much grist for the mill in the multiple stories of love and sacrifice, the conflicting allegiances to God, loves, knowledge, and so on. And then there’s the title — what does it mean to be a “gargoyle?” Is Madeline carving the narrator as well?
- Another case of a novel in which I don’t really like the main character. But unlike I just want my pants back, I was compelled by the writing to continue. It seems like the narrator in The Gargoyle is a pretty big jerk, but he’s also viciously sarcastic and detached (as opposed to whiny). It’s that last element that kept me going, I think. Once I got past the halfway point, though, I was interested to continue.
- I love all the stuff about old books and the scriptorium. The mix of modern and medieval stories drives the narrative nicely, with each leaving you wanting more of the other. I often had to actively stop reading because I always wanted to find out what happened in the next chapter.
- Davidson hinges a key part of the novel on Dante’s journey through Hell in The Inferno. It’s probably worth reviewing that text (or a summary thereof) before you spend too much time on the last part of this one.
- Overall, a little too much romance for me, but otherwise good.
- Both stories focus on men who learn about the world through observing it. Because he’s confined to a bed in the first half of the novel and to his pressure suit in the second half, Davidson’s narrator spends most of his time watching the world around him and observing it. Then he acts in careful controlled bursts because that’s all he can manage. Holmes is the same way, but his pressure suit is his own body.
- Both men also begin the story insensitive to others and unable to connect. They grow as the stories progress.
- Both stories hinge on supernatural events observed by rational-minded characters. In each, the resolution could work out either way. Each also includes a clue that perhaps things are not as neat and pat as the narrator would like to think — keep an eye out for the creepy crow in Sherlock Holmes and the ancient manuscripts in The Gargoyle. There’s another book club question: is Madeline’s story real?