Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Shadow of the Wind

Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

What it's about: Daniel Sempere and his father run a bookshop. One day, Daniel's father takes him to a mysterious place known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and tells him to choose one book to take care of. Daniel chooses a novel called The Shadow of the Wind and immediately falls in love with the story. Intrigued, he tries to find more books by the author, Julian Carax, but he soon learns that Carax's novels are impossible to find, as someone has been going around and destroying them. Daniel delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Julian Carax and finds out that the tragic story is still unfolding even as he himself is caught up in it. With help from old friends and a new love, Daniel just might find his own happy ending.

What I thought: Two notes before we start the review. First of all, this novel is originally Spanish, translated now into English. Second of all, I'd have to give this book an R rating for its content. There's some pretty explicit stuff in here, but it all serves a purpose in the story. Anyway! I have to say that I love this book very much. My one theatre teacher once said that all theatre is about theatre. Well, I don't think I'm qualified to extend the same claim about books, but I do know that The Shadow of the Wind is very much a book about books. You can tell how much the author loves the craft of reading and writing by the loving tangents and book-related metaphors. Plus, you get bonus points for catching all the literary references. I myself noticed a new one this read-through, something from Don Quixote.Additionally, well, the whole story revolves around books and those who write them. The story of Julian and Penelope is morbid and tragic, and Daniel's story is an interesting parallel, as though he is repeating history and following the path of Julian's story himself.

I think the characters are what make this book so interesting. Daniel himself is a relatable narrator, flawed but likable, so we sympathize with him as he bumbles through the book. Fermin Romero de Torres serves as the main comic relief, but he's also a wise fellow who provides Daniel with good advice and friendship. He's very outrageous in his behavior which makes him very fun to read about. Julian is a rather complex fellow, for his part, as we learn more about what he has been through and how he has changed. The characters aren't the only things brought to life in this story. The city of Barcelona is described simply but oh so aptly. In few words, you get a sense not just of what the city looks like, but what it is like. Zafon has a gift for elegant description. I had no trouble picturing the story playing out in my head like a movie, and that's not usually the case with me. The characters, the settings, and the story itself, they all coalesce into an amazing experience of a novel. I find it's best read in the quiet hours of the morning, in the darkness and silence, when there is nothing to distract you from the beauty of the story.

Overall: I feel the word "masterpiece" can be justifiably used to describe this book.

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