The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 

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The Shadow of the Wind was given to me by a friend whose love of books is akin to mine. She promised me I would love it, and handed me a tattered, dog-eared novel, whose cover was peeling and whose pages were no stranger to a tea stain of two. This was a clear sign of a good book and once I’d opened it, I struggled to put it down.

This novel, written by Spanish writer, Carlos Ruiz Zafon in 2001, is set in Barcelona and I would never have guessed it, but it has been translated from Spanish to English seemingly perfectly; its language is visually enrapturing and carries you along each page as smoothly as if you were watching a film and with each new chapter, it feels as though you are falling deeper into the world of the novel.

The story begins with a ten-year-old boy named Daniel, the son of a bookshop owner. It is 1945 and the Spanish civil war has just come to an end. His father introduces him to ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ where he tells him:

“According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive.”

The idea intrigued me. Its style reminded me vaguely of The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick and it being such a strange idea for a novel, it spurred me to read on.

Daniel picks a book called ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by the fictitious character, Julian Carax. As the story progresses, Daniel grows older and attempts to find out more about Julian Carax’s life, which forms into a story within a story. As the mystery unravels, various parallels between Daniel’s and Julian’s lives are drawn and he encounters a diverse range of characters including the eccentric Fermin Romero de Torres, an old war prisoner and an anonymous figure who is intent on getting his hands on The Shadow of the Wind and burning it out of existence. I’d suggest that this book is aimed at young adults, as in some ways, it is like a coming-of-age novel as we follow Daniel on the exploration of his own identity and pursuit in love.

My favorite character has to be, as I previously mentioned, Fermin Romero Torres. We first meet Fermin as a beggar who approaches Daniel after he has been beaten up (girl troubles). He is a deep-thinker and holds an optimism about life, despite his difficult past, and becomes a mentor to Daniel after Daniel’s father allows him to work in the bookshop. He seems wise beyond his years and I imagine him as a free-spirited, grizzly looking man whose mismatched fashion sense might make him stand out amongst the citizens of Barcelona. He, like many of the characters of the novel, has his own complicated history that cleverly intertwines with Daniel’s present; another mystery that is thoroughly enjoyable to watch unravel.

The novel rings numerous praise, in fact, it fills up six pages of positive reviews and, according to Wikipedia, was awarded a ‘grade A’ in the USA by Entertainment Weekly… whatever that means!

Zafon masterly weaves us through stories of mystery, romance and a darker world of Barcelona that is tainted by war and lingers between the lines of the novel. Yet the imagery and warmth of its characters will leave you enchanted and absorbed and you’ll find yourself being swept away by the cobbled streets of Barcelona.

 

Important information: 

  • Released in 2001
  • Publisher (s) – Planeta (Spain), Penguin Books (USA), Weidenfeld & Nicolson & Orion Books (UK
  • Check Out – Marina, Zafon’s book previous to Shadow of the Wind!
  • Shadow of the Wind is the first of a trilogy of books called ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ Next up: The Angels Game and The Prisoner of Heaven 
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