“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 to forget – we will return.”
This is one of my favorite lines from the book The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which has definitely found its way into my heart — from cover to cover!
Set in the heart of post-war Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind is an exquisite blend of elements I love in books: literary mystery, horror, romance, and even some swashbuckling action!
In The Shadow of the Wind, 10-year old Daniel Sempere‘s life is changed forever when his father, a bookseller, brings him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (“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…”).
In the tradition of this labyrinthine repository of obscure tomes, a first-time visitor must choose a book and take care of it forever, making sure it stays alive and never disappears. Daniel is immediately drawn to a handsome volume entitled “Shadow of the Wind,” by a little-known Spanish writer Julian Carax. The mysterious book sets off Daniel’s curiosity about Carax and he embarks on a quest to find out more about the author, whose life gets more and more entwined with Daniel’s as the story progresses.
The beautiful language is lush and wordy, rich with descriptions that just bloom with life — exactly the way I like it. And I like the fact that very few people (well outside of the FFP circle) have heard about it, and that it’s not that easy to find at the book store — it has this word of mouth success that doesn’t need the hype to make it a bestseller.
And the characters — they seemed to jump off the page. Fermin was my favorite — he had the best lines! I loved it when he said:
“Look, Daniel. Destiny is usually around the corner. Like a thief, like a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”
I also felt really sad for the gay watchmaker Federico Flavia, who was persecuted for his flamboyant lifestyle. I like Daniel too, as a protagonist. He is young and impetuous, but is charming and believable, and I think I fell in love with him too.
I’d have loved to write a longer review, but it’s been around nine months since I read the book, and it’s due for a reread this year. But I would have to say that it’s one of the best novels I have ever read, and I loved every bit of it; reading it was one of the best experiences I’ve had with a book — I laughed and cried and seethed and shivered and gushed throughout it all, and I couldn’t put it down. Sigh.
I can’t wait for the prequel, Angel’s Game, due in September 2009.
My copy: Phoenix trade paperback, mooched from Triccie. I want a hardcover. And an illustrated edition.
My rating: 5/5 stars!