Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón


Reviewed by Christine-Chioma

Published: 2001

It's about: The novel starts in 1945 with Daniel visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and rescuing the last remaining copy of The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. A mysterious person, calling himself the devil, is going around destroying all of the works of Carax. As Daniel tries to investigate the mystery his own life and those he cares about are put in danger.

I thought: Zafón is a superb writer. I loved the way he weaved the story and the observations made through Daniel's voice. There was a clever theme of shadows throughout the novel that I only really noticed at the end. I really appreciated the many layers and mysteries of the novel--there are multiple stories within this story (the long italicized portions are the best parts of the book). The story is very plot-driven but still fleshes out the psychology of the main characters (although I wish we had gotten more insight into Daniel's father). There are a few magical realism elements which made the story all the more intriguing.  It's a pretty serious novel but there are definitely some lighter moments like the time a father says the books in his house are wasted because the only person reading them is a girl and as you can tell from my favorite excerpts, the book is kind of a love letter to readers. It really had me contemplating the human condition, which I think is a very important aspect of literature.

By the way, the book has the most awesome covers. Apparently a sequel is coming out soon. Not sure if I'll read it, because I thought the ending was pretty complete.

Verdict: I definitely want to re-read it and look for more clues and allusions, but I'd skip some paragraphs for sure. Sometimes it was a bit much for me (see the Warnings section) hence it's In-between. 

Reading Recommendations: Definitely have a friend read it too. I really wanted to discuss it and hear other opinions. I did find a reading guide that also had a brief interview with the author. If you read Spanish I would recommend reading it in the orignal since translations are never as good. Also it's not really for the faint of heart. 

Warnings: A few sex scenes, one was pretty graphic. Lots of swear words. Some disturbing violence. What I really found gratuitous were Fermin's sexual innuendos and vulgar comments anytime a female was around or mentioned. It made me feel gross like I was in a boy's locker room. It almost made me stop reading it. I kind of wish there could be an edited version.

Favorite excerpts
"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 scultp a palace in our memory to which, sooner or latter--no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget--we will return."

“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 with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” 

"This is a world of shadows, Daniel, and magic is a rare asset. That book taught me that by reading, I could love more intensely. It could give me back the sight I had lost. For that reason alone, a book that didn't matter to anyone change my life."

"I told her how until that moment I had not understood that this was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that was why I had take refuge in it until it became confused with my own life, like someone who has escaped in the pages of a novel because those whom he needs to love seem nothing more than ghosts inhabiting the mind of a stranger"

“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.” 

What I'm reading next: An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender