The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A really unique book, The Shadow of the Wind is a wonderfully complex novel that is simultaneously mysterious, funny, romantic, thrilling, political and suspenseful.  Set in Barcelona in 1945, the main story is about Daniel, a young man whose book-dealer father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he finds a mysterious book entitled “The Shadow of the Wind” by Julian Carax.  Daniel soon finds himself immersed in the book and the author’s own story, especially when he discovers that a strange figure has been systematically tracking down and destroying copies of all works by Carax.  Daniel is determined to protect his own copy and discover who the strange figure is and why the books are being destroyed.

Meanwhile, Daniel’s own life is becoming a drama of its own.  Multiple characters enter the story, some in relation to Carax, others not, but each has his or her own history to be told as Daniel encounters them, resulting in a novel that is deliciously super-saturated with plot (including surprises and shocking revelations) and a fantastic collection of characters (evil villains, REALLY evil villains, tragic heroes, comic heroes, scapegoats and madmen).

The most omnipresent character in the novel was the city of Barcelona itself.  The author specifically described areas of the city where the action took place and in the back of the trade paperback version there is a walking tour of the city, pinpointing locations of places mentioned in the story.  So close to the end of the Spanish Civil War, the city had a very distinct personality.  The mood was unsure and pessimistic, and the setting very gothic, ensorcelled in Spanish mysticism.

The writing in this novel is some of the most enjoyably lyrical I have read.  The author shows a real passion and enjoyment of language that he shares with the reader.  The book is a translation from the original Spanish novel and I think the translation must be excellent, since the writing shines, and the book is rich with both wit and humor.

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Published in: on August 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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