The Shadow of the Wind

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Pages: 487
Genre: Fiction
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!


Dannie said...

ooh looks good!

NY Book Cafe said...

Looks like a goodread! With respect to the madmen quote... most philosophical thought is intricate and complex - that statement certainly gives one something to think about - LOL!

Melissa said...

I love The Shadow of the Wind. Whenever I get asked what book is my favorite, this one is the one that pops in my head.

I'm not so patiently waiting to get a copy of The Angel's Game.

Mon said...

This does sound interesting. Will look into it. Thanks.

Amy said...

Hi Jenny, thanks for stopping by my blog! I bought The Shadow of the Wind when I was in Barcelona a few years ago and started reading it, but then got sidetracked by the confusing plot lines and myriad characters and let it sit for too long, so now I have to start all over. But I definitely want to finish it, because now there is a second book out. I do find it does evoke the city of Barcelona in the most amazing way!

Baba said...

I read this book last year in one of the book clubs I belong to. It was a very good book and the group enjoyed it. I agree that at times it was a bit confusing, but overall it was a very well written book. Your review has made me think about picking it up again and re-reading it. I suspect I'll pick up things I missed the first time around. Great blog!

passionatebooklover said...

I've read The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and I loved it. The Shadow of the Wind sounds engaging too. Thanks for this great review!

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

I just picked this up the other day, glad you liked it! I had heard this is better then The Angel's Game??

Jenny said...

Ny Book Cafe -- yes it does... I'm glad it wasn't just me being confused, lol!

Melissa -- I actually had Angel's Game out at the library but didn't get a chance to read it!

Amy -- it really does make me interested to see Barcelona one day! You should definitely try reading it again!

Baba -- Even though I feel like it took a lot of energy to read it the first time, I feel like reading it again too to pick up on the little things I missed, lol!

passionatebooklover -- good to hear that one's good too! I will read it eventually!

Mel -- that's what I heard... I think it's because The Angel's Game is a little more confusing and the ending leaves you hanging a little. That's what I've read in other reviews, anyway.

Dannie and Mon -- yes, I do recommend reading this one!

okbolover said...

It looks like a great book. I have it on my list somewhere. I know what you mean about translations though, which is why I'm a bit weary when I take those kinds of books out. It's usually not the same.

bookjourney said...

I love this cover.... what a great sounding book!

justicejenniferreads said...

It sounds like a delightful read.

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