Book: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
487 pages (Paperback)
Daniel Sempere is the son of a bookstore owner. When he turns 10, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to pass on a legacy. He must choose a book from the stacks that he will take care of for the rest of his days. For hours Daniel searches the stacks to choose the book that is calling his name. What he finally finds is The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. It’s as if the book chose him and Daniel devours it and is determined to find out more about the author. What follows is a mystery that is not only captivating, but also dangerous.
Let me start off by saying that literary fiction is not something that is calling my name right now. I’ve been more in the mood for fun, fast reads. When The Shadow of the Wind came up for a new book club I was trying out, I was excited because I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and it would further expand my loose goal of reading more fiction in translation. However, I knew it was literary so I was a little dubious about reading it right now since I have really wanted to read quick and easy books lately.
Well, I did struggle some, but the struggle was well worth it because this book was beautifully written. At book club I called it a “crock pot novel". It’s one of those books that takes a long time to get into, but once you get to the meaty part of the book, you just savor every moment of it. For about 2/3 of the book, I really didn’t connect with the plot of the book because it was more of a character study. Every character was written in detail—I felt like I knew them all by the end. Their joy and their pain was tangible because Zafon is just a great storyteller. I cared deeply for every single character in the novel. However, because the characters were so well-written, the plot was a little slower in developing. When everything started coming together, it was well worth the wait because I couldn’t put the book down.
Daniel is a captivating young man. His pursuit of information about Julian Carax was unfaltering and he developed a deep friendship with an eccentric bookshop employee named Fermin who I adored. Fermin was like a father figure to Daniel and also a good friend. Where Daniel’s relationships with friends and his father was lacking, Fermin really saw Daniel and understood his motivations. It was such a nice part of the book because I think that is what people most want in life—for someone to really get them and encourage them to be who they are. Their relationship was really something special to behold and was possibly my favorite part of the book.
The mystery of the book was also amazing even though I had an inkling from the beginning of how it would turn out. The characters were so well woven into this complex mystery that I was never in disbelief that any of this could have actually happened. Zafon’s writing is vivid and Barcelona really came alive in this book. It is my first foray in a Spanish novel (translated into English of course) and I wasn’t disappointed. I will definitely be picking up Zafon’s other novels and hopefully reading more about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in The Angel’s Game.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon also has a really great website that includes music inspired by The Shadow of the Wind and a map of Barcelona.