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The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I think spring has finally sprung here. I’ve taken my whole operation out to the balcony to enjoy the sunny weather. This is a desperate attempt on my part to get some work done because, and you’ll have to forgive me for this, my brain is not on books today. It’s on the epic marathon taking place in my hometown 3000 miles away. It’s on the run I had today, a run where I went two miles further than usual because running felt like the absolute best thing to be doing. It’s on the tree outside our bedroom that has decided it’s time to bloom the bright green shield that provides us our summer privacy from the neighbors across the way. It’s on the fact that somehow, even though it’s Monday and Mondays can be the worst (the worst of the worst), today is different. It makes me happy.

It’s funny too, because this book, The Shadow of the Wind, is sort of like that. It’s completely different from any book I can remember reading, and it’s strange, like having a good Monday is strange, but it makes me happy.

I don’t really know what I expected when I bought this book. It has a quote on the front by Stephen King. I’ve never read any Stephen King in my life. It’s described on the back  as a gothic read and a thrilling, erotic  tragedy. Maybe those words make you rush right out to the nearest book store, but I usually like my literature as far from the erotically tragic as possible.

The cover of the book reminds me a little of some of the scenes in The NeverEnding Story (or at least my twisted childhood perception of the movie), and consequently, I expected it would be an adventure story, something along the lines of Inkheart, maybe, but with more…erotic tragedy. I expected alternate realities, at the very least. Of course, it’s a New York Times Bestseller, so chances were good that science fiction would be kept to a minimum.

This book  reminds me of the Winchester Mystery House. My favorite line from all of their promotional material is “What was Mrs. Winchester thinking when she had a staircase built that descends seven steps and then rises eleven?” That just about sums up the novel for me thus far (no, I haven’t finished. Did you know this was the last weekend to do your taxes?!).  The plot winds through the life of a young man in Barcelona; he’s a bibliophile desperate to save the works of his favorite author, a man shrouded in miserable mystery and heartbreak, from a terrifying stranger who wants to burn every last copy. (Okay, it’s actually really difficult to describe this book without sounding like fainting women and villains twirling marvelous mustaches appear on every page, but I promise, it’s much better than that…although as far as I can tell, most of the erotic tragedy encountered seems to be of the variety experienced by the vast majority of sixteen year old boys.)

“So what is it you’re going to show me?”
  “A number of things. In fact, what I’m going to show you is part of a story. Didn’t you tell me the other day that what you like to do is read?”
  Bea nodded, arching her eyebrows.
  “Well, this is a story about books.”
  “About books?”
  “About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of all the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.”
  “You talk like the jacket blurb of a Victorian novel, Daniel.”
  “That’s probably because I work in a bookshop and I’ve seen too many. But this is a true story. As real as the fact that this bread they served us is three days old. And like all true stories, it begins and ends in a cemetery, although not the sort of cemetery  you imagine.”
  She smiled the way children smile when they’ve been promised a riddle or a conjuror’s trick. “I’m all ears.” (pg 178)

I admit I also initially put off reading this book because of the style in which its written – it’s an unusual blend of modern and old-fashioned sensibilities that takes some getting to used to – but now that I’ve gotten into it, the choice is integral to the magic of the story. It lends an air of richness – of falling into Barcelona in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War – as he pulls the story together one strand at a time. I keep thinking I must be coming to the big reveal, then the author braids in another piece, and I can see how I still have 200 pages to go.

  “I told Bea 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.” (p 183)

 

For more information on Carlos Ruiz Zafón, check out his site (although be forewarned: The Shadow of the Wind is apparently the first in a trilogy and there appear to be some spoilers on his homepage).

14 responses »

  1. I was interested to read your post – I’ve just started reading “The Angel’s Game” by the same author. Can’t say I’m in love with the book but, thanks to your review, I’ve decided to stick with it.

    Reply
    • His writing definitely requires more energy than some authors, but when I sit down with the book, I always end up enjoying it. I do feel a little like I need a road map to follow the plot though…

      Reply
  2. I adored this book!
    Love that cover design, hadn’t seen it before, but it is perfect for the story within a story style.

    Reply
  3. Heeey!! I adored this book too! It’s one of my favourites. Actually i’m reading it againg after 5 years :)
    I’m also from Barcelona, and I can tell that you will love next two books ^^

    Keep reading!!

    Reply
    • People have told me that Spain is an amazing country, and after reading this, I want to see it even more! He manages to make even the worst parts sound mysterious and beautiful :)

      Reply
  4. Heeey, I adored this book too, actually I’m reading it again. You will love next too books too :DDDDD
    In my opinion the third should be the second one, you will see when you read it!

    Keep reading!!

    Reply
  5. I loved the book!!! follow please.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: BookBalloon July Reading Club: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón « Charlottesville Words

  7. My favorite book!

    Reply
  8. i actually liked the book immediately because of the way it was written. I found that the first chapter sucked me in so deeply, which I think is a rare find. I’d love to see what you thought of my review of “The Shadow of the Wind” http://loveatfirstbook.com/2012/09/12/the-shadow-of-the-wind-by-carlos-ruiz-zafon-book-14/

    Reply
    • “Page after page I let the spell of the story and it’s world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page” – that quote that was in first chapter made me wonder “will I also experience the book this way?”

      I also did a review on this book.

      Reply
  9. my favorite book, this and the following 2 books. i can’t separate them ^_^

    Reply

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