Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Reading this book brought to mind what it was like reading stories as a child that took place in large dark rambling houses, with endless mysterious rooms to explore.  I adored that kind of story then (the one that jumped to mind was The Secret Garden) and still do!  Only, The Shadow of the Wind is even more deliciously mysterious and  labyrinthine than anything you can imagine.

Set in Barcelona the story begins in 1945, when young Daniel Sempere is taken by his book-selling father to an enourmous book archive called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  First time visitors to the cemetery are required to select a single book from amongst the thousands of books, as their own, to read and protect it.  Ten year old Daniel selects a rare volume called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.  The novel soon becomes Daniel's favourite book and in the years that follow he begins a search to learn more of the mercurial author.

From the very first I knew this novel would win my heart.  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is like a lolly shop for any reader, and from its heart Daniel takes a book that unleashes all the magic and mystery of story telling within him.  His passionate quest to find the author greatly resembles an ardent readers pursuit of stories.

The novel has been translated from the Spanish original and the prose is gorgeous and original.

Fumero laughed again, that forced, affected laugh that seemed to sum him up like the blurb on a book jacket.  p. 144


There was another silence, the kind in which grey hairs seem to creep up on you.  p. 358

The ever misty Barcelona streetscapes form the setting for most of the story. Against this backdrop Ruiz Zafon introduces a parade of flamboyant and lively characters that we soon grow to either love or fear.  While the writing is often subtle, the story is anything but, it is bold and passionate. 

I know many of you have probably already read The Shadow of the Wind and I would love to hear what you think of it.  For me it is simply a sparkling, dramatic tale, that, in more ways than one, pays tribute to stories and story telling.