I must somewhat tentatively admit that this book is not for the faint hearted. I don’t mean that it is gory, or overly sexual, or anything thataway, but you do have to approach this with a determination to understand all the nuances. If you like easy, thoughless reads, I would advise you to turn back here.
Book: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron (original in Spanish)
Published: W&N, 2005
Available in various forms on Amazon here
Summer Reading Challenge Book 5.
Good! You stuck around. That being said, the Shadow of the Wind is absolutely phenomenal! I was reading it in snatches, at the airport waiting for a friend to return, in the morning, on the train, any chance I could get really! This book is blessed with that gift of sucking you in. I will admit, up until about two dozen pages to the end, I hadn’t the foggiest what was going on, nor where in Spain this story was going, but I knew I had to know what happened. The whole book was like that, you learn the information as Daniel does, know nothing more than Daniel does, sees everything as Daniel does. It means that you are kept second guessing yourself and everyone introduced, kept on tenderhooks, trying to piece the puzzle together as you go. It was amazing.
In Barcelona, there is a building, where forgotten books are laid to rest, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is ten years old when his father takes him to the Cemetery and tells him that he is allowed to adopt one book, that he has been introduced one of the best kept secrets in Barcelona. The book Daniel picks, is Shadow of the Wind by a Julian Carax. In his quest to learn more about the author, Daniel sparks a series of events that will shape his life, and twist his life around that of Julian Carax, whose novels are impossible to get hold of, and are often burnt when found. Daniel is caught up in events that began before the revolution in Spain, and are still playing out in the precarious balance that is post revolutionary Barcelona. With his friend Fermin, he seeks to piece together the mystery of Julian Carax, and why so many people are interested in his book.
A book about books, and about the power of words, and the all encompassing seduction of imagination. The author manages to weave an intricate, complex tale, dispersed with sarcasm and the side stories of Daniel progressing from that ten-year-old boy into a young man. Fermin provides a fresh and humorous interpretation, but I would not call him the joker character. Daniel pulls out some spectacularly sarcastic one liners. But Fermin, spy turned tramp turned bookseller, is loyal, and endearing, and eternally positive, while being completely in love with women and trying to give Daniel friendly advice for how to go about wooing them. Fermin is Daniel’s most trusted friend and advisor, and the feeling is clearly reciprocated. I would say there is a main villain, but also another dubious character who shadows Daniel, requesting the book and threatening where he feels fit. His name is Lains Courbet, a sinister character in Shadow of the Wind (Daniel’s book) who is said to be the Devil. The main thorn in everyone’s side is Fumero, a ruthless assassin turncoat, who has killed for pretty much every side of the revolution and always comes out on top.
I would say that at points, I felt it got too confusing, and I would have to concentrate to try and integrate this seemingly random situation into the story, but then something else happens, and suddenly you have to know more again. It is a tale of intrigue, of growing up, of two men who’s lives are intrinsically linked by the power of words, and the shadowing as one boy seeks the truth of the mans mistakes. There are distinctly gothic undertones, with a dash of thrill and a splash of witty and real observations (often provided by Fermin). Lots of people die mysteriously, the plot thickens to treacle, and Fermin makes a comment about women’s boobs. But, somehow, the weave of story is a net so tight you can’t help but be drawn into this world of intrigue, where people are still recovering from the war revolution and trust and history is thin on the ground. A story about a boy obsessed with an author he found as a child (I wish Harry Potter hadn’t just popped into my head then. This story is nothing like Harry Potter) and the dark history that unfurls as time and information passes hands.
If you haven’t at least attempted this book, I would highly recommend giving it a go! The twists and turns keep you guessing from start to finish, and the ending is one I will not even hint at a spoiler for!