Thursday, November 03, 2011

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Publisher's Summary
Barcelona, 1945: Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his 11th birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again.
Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it, his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness, and doomed love.
An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller's art.

I wasn't sure the premise of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel "The Shadow of the Wind" would really hold my attention for 18+ hours - presuming that either the summary was overly simplistic or the novel incredibly long winded and drawn out. I was pleasantly surprised as I got deeper into The Shadow of the Wind that the novel was C: None of the above.

The Shadow of the Wind was an accidental find for me I picked it up thinking it was simply a historical novel - what I discovered however, was so much more. A coming of age novel, a novel of situational relationships, a love story (technically three separate love stories), a mystery and even to some extent an adventure novel. All of these themes are so richly woven together, with such beautiful language and presence that if I didn't know better I'd never guess that The Shadow of the Wind was written in Mr. Zafon's native language and translated by a third party into English. I found myself bookmarking (virtual bookmarks naturally) passages and going back to listen to them again, then returning to the novel again.

As the publisher's summary indicates, an 11 year old Daniel begins a journey that will engross the next nine years of his life. His school-boy crush on a much older woman, falling in love with a contemporary who he cannot have, all the while following the clues to the life and death of Julian Carax - the illegitimate son of a hatter, literary genius and incredibly disturbed individual. In the end Daniel's life unknowingly begins to draw parallels to the author's path, as a reader along for the ride we can only hope that perhaps Daniel can have the happy ending Julian could never have.

The Shadow of the Wind is now pretty high on my highly recommend reading (or listening) list - well worth a read or a listen.

The Shadow of the Wind was written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (copyright 2001) and translated into English by Lucia Graves (copyright 2004) Penguin Books. Audio Release date 05/06/2005. The Shadow of the Wind was narrated by Jonathan Davis and has a runtime of 18 hours 10 minutes.

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