Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a very crafty storyteller. A multi-layered, multi dimensional story within a story that spans across many generations. Just when you think that you can go no further in the depths of mystery and intrigue, there is yet another layer that draws you deeper.
Having been such a fan of “The Book Thief”, I thought I would read anything that told of misunderstood writers, the discovery lost books in carnivorous libraries, shrouded in an air of mystery and adventure. It falls under both these genres, and more as a thriller; and in part, a romance. It tells of the depths of revenge, and just how extensively hatred can corrupt a person over time.
Wow, what can I say. Days of being hooked on this book- glued, obsessed, devouring it (insert any adjectives to describe) all the while fearing I would go blind from the amount of binge reading I was doing.
The story begins with a father taking his son to the cemetery of forgotten books, and how a boy, feeling the weight of a thousand voices speaking to him, bonds with the book “The Shadow of the Wind.” In this cemetery of forgotten books, it is said that a person is destined to find the one that will form a deep connection with themselves. The protagonist soon discovers he must unravel the mystery that surrounds the book, and the countless characters that pass its pages-which start to materialise in his reality.
There are many parallels in the novel. The life of Julian Carax, the writer of the mysterious books, “The Shadow of the Wind” being one of many; and the main protagonist, Daniel Sempere. It is no doubt a coming of age story, taking the reader along Daniel’s journey from boy to adulthood. I had a certain relish in reading from a male protagonist’s point of view (probably because the main characters in my current stories tend to be female)
As a writer and a die hard book-worm, there is nothing about this novel that doesn’t draw me in. But at the start, I confess, it took me a while to truly fall in love with the book. I was intrigued with the theme and the plot line, for I knew they were something I was interested in. I even started it a while back, and put it down amidst countless distractions. But it pays to be patient.
The style is fresh and poetical, with some really beautiful descriptions of setting. But most of all, I enjoyed the humour of Fermin Romero de Torres, a homeless man whom Daniel befriends one night, and later recruits to work at his father’s bookshop. He provides much needed comic relief to what is otherwise quite a heavy, and dark narrative; he is loyal, a perfect companion. In contrast to Fermin, is Javier Fumero, a corrupt police office and the antagonist of the novel. He murders without remorse and holds an irrefutable grudge towards Fermin and Julian Carax… spoilers aside, I will share some of my favourite quotes:
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
“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 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 or forget—we will return.”
One of my all time favourite: “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 novel is like a dedication for those who appreciate books and reading. I couldn’t get enough of it. So when I heard there was a sequel, (and a prequel, but they exist as separate narratives, without having to be read in order) I literally squealed in delight. Not to mention, there is always something romantic about a Spanish novel…
Recently I also finished: “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton, “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly, “Burial Rites“by Hannah Kent and of course “The Shadow of the Wind.” Definitely a mixed bunch when it comes to plots & genres, but will ponder on whether there will be upcoming reviews on these in the future.
Further book reviews on F Scott Fitzgerald will come in due course…