Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, 1945. Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, 'The Shadow of the Wind', by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

After reading many wonderful reviews, I decided to make time to read this book. It has every element I enjoy, a Gothic atmosphere, mystery, a bit or romance (though, thankfully, not overpowering) and books.

I love stories with other stories intertwined around it, and this book has more than its share. There are layers upon layers of plotlines throughout these pages, making for a deep and fast-paced reading. The whole mood is fabulous. We really feel as if we’re there, following Daniel as he tries to find out who Julian Carax is. It was hard to put the book down for this same reason, because we were so enmeshed ourselves in the many stories, that it was hard to find our way out.

Although Daniel is the protagonist, Julian is the one who really commands the reader’s attention, drawing us into his mysterious and harsh life. Fermin, Daniel’s friend, also demands attention, stealing most of the scenes he’s in. I do wish, however, that we’d learned a bit more about him, since he is left kind of a shadowy character himself, with a past that’s not really made clear.

The writing is beautiful, no question about it, but there were a few word choices that I found repeated over and over which got to be, well, repetitive. That aside, this is a wonderful book, one I easily recommend to everyone.

1 comment:

Priya said...

I think the latest book by the author, The Prisoner of Heaven revolves around Fermin and his past. I'm not sure, because I haven't read it; though I really want to! I agree with you, the language is at time repetitive. I did fall in love with the imagery! Nice review :)