Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Shadow of the Wind is a dark and thrilling novel set in the Gothic heart of Barcelona, Spain.
The book's story has many elements: it's part mystery, part tragedy, and part love letter to great literature.
It has a cool, mysterious sounding title so it must be good, right? Read on and find out. You'll also discover some of my favorite quotes from the book.
Summary of "The Shadow of the Wind"
What's This Book About?
Daniel, the son of a Barcelona book dealer, discovers a little known book called The Shadow of the Wind. Entranced by the book's dark and tragic story, he tries to find other books written by its mysterious author, Julian Carax. What he learns is that someone has been burning every copy of Carax's novels. Daniel may possess one of the last copies remaining.
Daniel's efforts to protect the book and learn more about Carax lead him into a world of dark secrets, forbidden love and scars from Barcelona's troubled past during the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
A story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.
My Thoughts About This Book
There are two things you'll learn about Zafón when reading this book...he loves books and he has one crazy dark imagination.
The Shadow of the Wind is a fascinating story wrapped around a love letter to great literature. Zafón's love of literature pours off of the pages. It's a book about a book and there's another book inside of it. Along the way he praises classic books, the joy of reading and the value that books offer us. And it's a tribute to failed authors, many of the story's characters are failed or aspiring authors.
The book is a tragic stew of love, obsession, pride, revenge, religion, friendship and remorse. Zafón blends these ingredients together with more than a dash of cruelty. It's a harsh story and there's a lot of cruelty...much of it within families. As a dad and husband, it was impossible for me to read some of the scenes without shaking my head and thinking, "how could someone ever treat their own family like that?". Zafón does an excellent job of using words to paint the story effectively without being overly graphic.
Reading The Shadow of the Wind reminded me of the TV show Lost...you're always trying to figure out what the real mystery is during the story. Is it a man made conspiracy? Something paranormal or supernatural? Or simply a tragic coincidence of events? Another similarity is the labyrinth of sub plots and old connections between characters. Zafón even mentions Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island which is one of the books featured on Lost.
This city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it.
Most of the book is a narrative told by Daniel. There are flashbacks when other characters tell Daniel their story where Zafón changes style to a third person recount of events. These passages are in italic so they're easy to identify. I like that he wrote it this way because the interactions would have interrupted the story's flow. Zafón also uses this to provide more background info than that person would have told.
Zafón's use of words to describe a scene and evoke emotions are awesome. The book's translator, Lucia Graves, deserves credit for translating those words beautifully from the original Spanish. After reading this novel, I feel like I know the city of Barcelona intimately although I've never been there.
It's an intricate plot full of sub plots and interconnected characters that sucks you in to its world of tragic events.
Lives with no meaning go straight past you, like trains that don't stop at your station.
3 Key Things I Liked
- An intricate plot with multiple layers that kept me engaged and reminded me of Lost.
- Insight into a city and a part of history (Spanish Civil War) that I knew little about before reading this book.
- Rich and descriptive story telling.
There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse.
My Rating of "The Shadow of the Wind"
It's an excellent read that will gnaw at your consciousness until you finish it. The story telling was rich and dark with layers of sub plots and mystery.
Sometimes we think people are like lottery tickets, that they're there to make our most absurd dreams come true.
How Do You Rate "The Shadow of the Wind"?
A Few More of My Favorite Quotes
"We humans are willing to believe anything rather than the truth."
"When we stand in front of a coffin, we all see only what is good or what we want to see."
"Mother Nature is the meanest of bitches..."