Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Reading this book brought to mind what it was like reading stories as a child that took place in large dark rambling houses, with endless mysterious rooms to explore.  I adored that kind of story then (the one that jumped to mind was The Secret Garden) and still do!  Only, The Shadow of the Wind is even more deliciously mysterious and  labyrinthine than anything you can imagine.

Set in Barcelona the story begins in 1945, when young Daniel Sempere is taken by his book-selling father to an enourmous book archive called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  First time visitors to the cemetery are required to select a single book from amongst the thousands of books, as their own, to read and protect it.  Ten year old Daniel selects a rare volume called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.  The novel soon becomes Daniel's favourite book and in the years that follow he begins a search to learn more of the mercurial author.

From the very first I knew this novel would win my heart.  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is like a lolly shop for any reader, and from its heart Daniel takes a book that unleashes all the magic and mystery of story telling within him.  His passionate quest to find the author greatly resembles an ardent readers pursuit of stories.

The novel has been translated from the Spanish original and the prose is gorgeous and original.

Fumero laughed again, that forced, affected laugh that seemed to sum him up like the blurb on a book jacket.  p. 144


There was another silence, the kind in which grey hairs seem to creep up on you.  p. 358

The ever misty Barcelona streetscapes form the setting for most of the story. Against this backdrop Ruiz Zafon introduces a parade of flamboyant and lively characters that we soon grow to either love or fear.  While the writing is often subtle, the story is anything but, it is bold and passionate. 

I know many of you have probably already read The Shadow of the Wind and I would love to hear what you think of it.  For me it is simply a sparkling, dramatic tale, that, in more ways than one, pays tribute to stories and story telling.


  1. Wow. Sounds so interesting. And like it could make a great film. Great review.

  2. I have not read this, but I definitely intend to now...sounds like a can't miss for book-lovers :)

  3. I really enjoyed this book - one of my favorites. Have you read the prequel? I reviewed it here:

  4. I loved this book so much when I read it a few years ago now and count it as one of my favourite books ever! Only problem now is that I am not brave enough to read his other books in case they aren't as good as Shadow of the Wind.

  5. Juju, I agree a movie version could be brilliant!

    BookGirl, Totally, I am a sucker for any book that captures about the mystery of story telling and reading! I think too, in this age of the electronic book, the idea of dusty bookshops takes on an added magic.

    Brenna I haven't read the prequel. I think I want to but, but I always hesitiate with follow up books in case they diminish my impression of a book I really enjoyed - this is a bit silly I know. I look forward to reading your review of the prequel maybe it will help me decide :)

    Marg, I often face the same difficulty. I stopped at the Hunger Games because I loved it and haven't read the other two. I am fine when it comes to crime novels of course or the rambling historical dramas like the Outlander series. But I think sometimes you just know in your heart when everything else will fall short.

  6. I think anyone who loves the physical book will like Shadows in the Wind-I did not find the prequel at all a let down

  7. I have never read this but have been hoping to for a very long time. One day, sigh.

    On a slightly different note, I think there is something really wonderful in the way that spanish translates into english. I tend to love lots of authors who write in spanish (Isabel Allende and Gabriel garcia Marquez jump straight to mind).

    Spanish is such a round-a-bout and descriptive language, not half as straight to the point as English is (I say this not just from reading experience but from personal as well - my family in law are native spanish speakers).

    The result is that you get these very long and languid sentences that move you towards to end of the story like you're on a river.

    Maybe I am going a bit overboard but you get the drift.

  8. Mel U, I look forward to reading the prequel, and I totally agree, this novel is a celebration of the full sensory experience of reading, touching and inhaling a good book.

    Becky, I don't think you are going overboard at all. Infact while reading the story I often found myself thinking how beautifully it read through the translation. I look forward to reading more of the Spanish writers. What you say brings to mind my fondess for the Irish writers. How the Irish speak and write English is very much influenced by the original Irish language, Gaelic. The way Irish people structure English sentences is naturally more lyrical. E.g. "will you not" does not often get contracted to "won't you." Instead of asking how old is he, an Irish person will more likely say "What age is he?" I lived in Ireland for a year and fell in love with how people there said the most everyday things. On a different note, "The House of Spirits" by Allende is getting very close to the top of my TBR pile. After reading Eva Luna last year I can't wait to read another by her.

  9. I've seen so many raves about this book! I know I need to read it some day. I like the idea of "lolly shop."

  10. The House of Spirits is amazing. I hope that you enjoy it.

    I finally read this book! It was amazing, although I can't imagine giving it a review that really does it justice!


Comments are very welcome.