Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Penguin Group
Release Date: January 25, 2005
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a dark and complex story about a boy's search to solve a mystery surrounding an author whose books are being destroyed. This epic novel also has other elements -- love and lust, murder, lies, want, and revenge.
The book, which takes place in Barcelona from the 1930's to the 1950's is mostly narrated by the main character, Daniel Sempere, who is 10-years-old at the onset of the novel. His father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and allows him to pick out a book to keep as his own. Daniel finds The Shadow of the Wind written by Julian Carax. Turns out this is a rare novel as most of Carax's other works have been found and destroyed. Shortly after, multiple offers of large sums of money are made to Daniel for his book by more than one person. Years pass and when Daniel is 17 he starts looking more into the mystery of Carax's books and why they're being destroyed. In learning more about the books he finds some intriguing information about Carax including information that he was murdered upon returning to Barcelona from Paris.
This commences the investigation by Daniel and his friend, Fermin, as they interview people who have been associated with Carax. The more people they interview the more they learn and the further they are pulled into the mystery. Not only do we start to understand what Daniel's personal motivations are for solving the mystery about Carax, but we also start to see some similarities between Daniel and Carax. And while he and Fermin intensify their investigation, they have to avoid being stopped and possibly arrested (or even killed) by the threatening police officer, Fumero.
I did think this was a great story and I can see why it has become sort of a modern classic. The writing was absolutely beautiful -- poetic at times. It makes me wonder how it was in the original Spanish and how it was translated because I know many Spanish words do not translate exactly to English. The story was also intricate and well thought out. I do love when a story is involved and has lots of different facets. If for nothing else, these two factors make this book worth reading.
However, the complexity of the storyline and the number of characters did confuse me at times. (It's possible that the number of spanish names may have contributed to my being confused what with Fermin Romero de Torres and Fernando Flavia and Francisco Javier Fumero etc.) I did get a little confused too because Daniel's storyline somewhat crosses over Julian Carax's storyline and since Carax's history is being told as well as Daniel's, I had to be sure to keep them separate. As I read, I thought to myself how convenient it would have been had I kept an outline as I went to keep everything straight. Because the story was so intense and the writing so fluid, I found times where I realized I was reading the words and not processing what they said. Then when I went back I would be confused. For instance:
"Does the madman know he is mad? Or are the madmen those who insist on convincing him of his unreason in order to safeguard their own idea of reality?"
I must have read that 10 times because I could not get what it was saying. Alone, I may have gotten it, but after having immersed myself in the rest of this story I was like HUH? I finally got it but I had to metaphorically step out of the book and read it over slowly to understand what it meant. Let me offset this with a couple quotes I liked.
"I told her how until that moment I had not understood that this was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that that was why I had taken refuge in it until it became confused with my own life, like someone who has escaped into the pages of a novel because those whom he needs to love seem nothing more than ghosts inhabiting the mind of a stranger."
"Books are mirrors; you only see in them what you already have inside you."
In all this was a great book -- maybe a little confusing at times -- but intriguing nonetheless!
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