Both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Vancouver Sun ran stories this week claiming that the early reviews of Andrew Davidson’s uber-hyped The Gargoyle are mostly raves, but did they really read those reviews? From our perspective, the reviews are conflicted at best, and give a distinct sense of punches being pulled.
For instance, Janet Maslin’s review in the New York Times, which functions as ‘Exhibit A’ for both the Free Press and the Sun, never actually says the book is any good. In fact, Maslin seems to be trying to let Davidson hang himself with his own rope, by quoting a lot of very florid-seeming prose at length. And she ends the review by summing up the book thus:
Lessons are learned, love is found, spirits are restored, and faith is revealed, all in the overheated cauldron of Mr. Davidson’s imagination.
And though Ron Charles of The Washington Post writes what amounts to a positive review, he constantly employs the kind of hedge-yer-bets phrases “ “an undeniably hot book” “ that critics use when they don’t want to deride a likely bestseller too harshly.
Meanwhile, in one openly negative critique, Lev Grossman from Time compares the book unfavorably to The English Patient (he wonders why it wasn’t simply titled The American Patient) and throws up his hands in disgust after trying to summarize the story:
I would very much like to stop summarizing the plot now. Instead, here is a quote from their inevitable love affair: “A cheese strand dangled from her mouth to the edge of her left nipple, and I wanted to rappel it like a mozzarella commando to storm her lovely breasts.” Nurse, is it time for my shot?