The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
By Natasja Hellenthal
Barcelona, 1945—just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh 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 spiralling 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. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
The Shadow of the Wind is one of my favourite books to re-read once in a while because of the beautiful style it is written in. You probably have heard of it as by now it is a literary classic. This is good old fashion storytelling, a mysterious tale to get lost in, and has many good quotes. A book about a book and a historical library that really existed until recently, what’s not to love! Is above all a gothic/historical tale with a crime thriller twist to it set in 1945, Barcelona. If you want to visit Barcelona, read this book first as it has many historical facts and even a walk description.
Daniel, a bookseller’s son, is introduced to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and is allowed to chose one of the books from the labyrinth to take home and care for. In doing so, he finds himself involved in a real-life mystery. The book he selected was written by a man named Julian Carax, and may very well be the last book in existence by that author. Someone has been finding the Carax works and destroying them. Daniel sets out on a journey to find out the truth about the author and he comes across a set of characters who experience loneliness, prejudice, forbidden love, and lost friendships. He is a likable character, but the other characters are well described as well. Set on the streets of Barcelona against a backdrop filled with corruption and dark alleys this book is one that every fan of Gothic literature must-read. The plot draws you in and Julian is fascinating as well.
My most liked aspect of this book was the rich writing that was full of similes and metaphors, which were extraordinarily perfect. There were so many descriptions of books. This is definitely a book for all book lovers.
“A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”
“In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”
“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”
I will definitely read ‘The Angel’s Game’ next and the other books in the series. My only criticism is that the women in this book are sexualised too much and only serve a purpose as an object for desire. They are not fleshed out like the men are. I wonder if it was because of the time period the author writes in or his own personal sexism? It seems out of place sometimes as it is a politically left book in which feminism should be mentioned more favourably. Luckily, Barcelona, today is very prominently feminist for both men and women and a very equal place to live.
So besides that, I would recommend this book to all book lovers.
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I read this book many years ago it is magical, memorable and I shall read it again some day. It is a story to savour, to lose yourself in, a journey you don’t want to end.