An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.
On a burn ward, a man lies between living and dying, so disfigured that no one from his past life would even recognize him. His only comfort comes from imagining various inventive ways to end his misery. Then a woman named Marianne Engel walks into his hospital room, a wild-haired, schizophrenic sculptress on the lam from the psych ward upstairs, who insists that she knows him – that she has known him, in fact, for seven hundred years. She remembers vividly when they met, in another hospital ward at a convent in medieval Germany, when she was a nun and he was a wounded mercenary left to die. If he has forgotten this, he is not to worry: she will prove it to him.
And so Marianne Engel begins to tell him their story, carving away his disbelief and slowly drawing him into the orbit and power of a word he'd never uttered: love.
At the start of Davidson's powerful debut, the unnamed narrator, "a coke-addled pornographer," drives his car off a mountain road in a part of the country that's never specified. During his painful recovery from horrific burns suffered in the crash, the narrator plots to end his life after his release from the hospital. When a schizophrenic fellow patient, Marianne Engel, begins to visit him and describe her memories of their love affair in medieval Germany, the narrator is at first skeptical, but grows less so. Eventually, he abandons his elaborate suicide plan and envisions a life with Engel, a sculptress specializing in gargoyles. Davidson, in addition to making his flawed protagonist fully sympathetic, blends convincing historical detail with deeply felt emotion in both Engel's recollections of her past life with the narrator and her moving accounts of tragic love. Once launched into this intense tale of unconventional romance, few readers will want to put it down.
Still my favourite book many years on...
It’s hard to explain why I love this book so much... it is a mixture of the originality, good writing, many layers and themes, and evoked emotions. It is still the book I always recommend to friends, even after many years!
Fantastic story of redemption
An amazing journey of self discovery told through the the eyes of a reformed drug addict who is learning to live again with the help of a schizophrenic ( or is she?). A true love story.
An absolutely fabulous book. Funny, poignant, horrifying, and romantic all at the same time. A wonderful interweaving of two stories, one in the 13th century and one in the present. In my humble view, a great novel, that will stand the test of time.