Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 4, 2004
Source: Personal Copy
Of all the books I've read so far in 2011, this is my favorite book hands down! As with any novel that I really enjoy, it's hard to write an adequate review. There's just so much I want to say, yet so much that I want to leave undisturbed. The Shadow of the Wind is definitely a novel that you want to delve into without having been spoiled.
This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.
Daniel Sempere's journey begins when, as a young boy, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Since this is his first visit, Daniel needs to adopt a book that he must protect for the rest of his life. Tasked with such an important endeavor, he roams the aisles until he sees one book that stands out: The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. After reading his new novel, Daniel tries to locate more of Carax's works. Unfortunately, someone has been collecting all the copies and burning them. Intrigued, Daniel begins to piece together the mystery that is the author's life, and simultaneously uncovers a side of Barcelona that he never knew existed.
If I had to categorize The Shadow of the Wind, I think I'd go with literary thriller that borders on noir fiction. From the very beginning, Zafrón creates such a dark, Gothic atmosphere, the type of setting that I think makes Jane Eyre so popular. All the traditional elements, such as decaying buildings, dark shadows, and hidden rooms were present, along with sex, torture, romance, and horror. I was most impressed by how easily the literary writing style came across, and, while some parts had me rolling my eyes at how melodramatic certain lines were, I kept turning page after page. There was an overwhelming sense of need to find out what happened next, and I haven't read a book like that in some time.
So much of the story depended on the believability of the characters, and there were many. One of the story's aspects I thoroughly enjoyed was having to figure out the reliability of the different people Daniel meets during his quest to learn more about Julián Carax. Characters often offered differing versions of a story and forced me to continuously re-evaluate my suspicions, which kept me on my toes. A lot of people think that The Shadow of the Wind should be made into a movie (which I would love to see!), but I think that the complexity and sheer number of characters might not translate well. They all have their own personalities and quirks, which I think is best conveyed through descriptive and subtle text, and I think on film many characters could come across as confusing or one dimensional.
All I can really say about this book is read it! I know I didn't do it justice with this review. There were some more soap opera-y elements when it came to plot lines and story twists, but, overall, this is a tale about cursed love, lost youth, and a boy's obsessions. I am so glad that I dipped into Carlos Ruiz Zafrón's back catalogue. He's definitely on my authors-to-watch list.
I'll end this review with one of my favorite quotes from the book. This captures some of the feelings I often feel when in a bookstore or library browsing for something to pick up. I think many avid readers feel this way...there are so many books that will be left unread. What a very sad thought!
As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.