Harriet Mercer / Memoir

Book cover

UK Publisher

Dead Ink Books

Date Published

April 8th, 2021

Six weeks after her fortieth birthday, Harriet is struck by a rare and life-threatening illness.

What follows is a painful and arduous stay at Charing Cross Hospital.

From the first day in Critical Care, whenever Harriet tries to sleep, the backs of her eyes come alive with soul-sucking gargoyles; she remains awake for the entire six weeks.

Such wakefulness produces its own hallucinations: the gargoyles become metaphors for lurking demons, fear of death, her relationship with her late father, and her dream of having a family.

A stunning blend of poetic memoir and essays, Gargoyles explores the effects of illness, grief, love, and loss, but is also about the power of memory, which both haunts and enriches.

It asks us to celebrate that which is in front of us, not taking our lives and health for granted.

Sometimes, this means we have to learn to live with the gargoyles.


Both haunting and empowering, it’s unlike any other book you’ve read.

- The Face

Experimental and daring, tender and compelling; Gargoyles is a story of illness, trauma and self-knowledge that has burnt itself into my mind forever. I urge you to read this beautifully written and startling book.

- Rebecca Tamás author of Strangers & WITCH

This exquisite book will stay with me for a very, very long time. It is a dazzling account of trauma and recovery, but also a testament to the power of using beautiful writing to excavate our most important moments and find meaning in chaos. It is an astonishing achievement to take slippery subjects like pain, illness, and self-knowledge and render them so lucidly on the page. This warm and moving story is beautifully told. It is a gift, and I urge you to read it.

- Lucia Osborne Crowley, author of I Choose Elena and My Body Keeps Your Secrets

Harriet Mercer writes with exceptional grace, self-awareness and compassion as she gently takes us through some of the most difficult episodes in her life. I’m in awe of what she has accomplished in Gargoyles.

- Zeba Talkhani, author of My Past is a Foreign Country

The best paperback books of 2021.

- Stylist

*Florence Welch’s picks for Between Two Books May*

- @betweentwobooks

Gargoyles, a blend of memoir and essay, brilliantly captures in form and craft the disembodied experience of sudden and life-threatening illness.

- The TLS

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