The Shadow of the Wind Paperback – Oct 5 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Ruiz Zafón's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue à la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermín are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Call it the "book book" genre: this international sensation (it has sold in more than 20 countries and been number one on the Spanish best-seller list), newly translated into English, has books and storytelling--and a single, physical book--at its heart. In post-World War II Barcelona, young Daniel is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a massive sanctuary where books are guarded from oblivion. Told to choose one book to protect, he selects The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. He reads it, loves it, and soon learns it is both very valuable and very much in danger because someone is determinedly burning every copy of every book written by the obscure Carax. To call this book--Zafon's Shadow of the Wind-- old-fashioned is to mean it in the best way. It's big, chock-full of unusual characters, and strong in its sense of place. Daniel's initiation into the mysteries of adulthood is given the same weight as the mystery of the book-burner. And the setting--Spain under Franco--injects an air of sobriety into some plot elements that might otherwise seem soap operatic. Part detective story, part boy's adventure, part romance, fantasy, and gothic horror, the intricate plot is urged on by extravagant foreshadowing and nail-nibbling tension. This is rich, lavish storytelling, very much in the tradition of Ross King's Ex Libris (2001). Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The plot has been described by other reviewers, but my main impression after reading "The Shadow of the Wind" was of emerging from a strange, beautiful, luminous dream, the kind of dream that leaves you blinking at the world and noticing poetry in the most trivial things around you. This is a book for dreamers and lovers, for people who can still remember being seventeen and deliriously in love, for those of you who smile at the full moon even when they're in a hurry.
Lucia Graves' translation is nothing short of miraculous. I don't know enough Spanish to pass a technical judgment on it, but the result in English is a thing of true beauty.
The storyline itself is a page-turner, but you'll want to pace yourself just to make it last longer.
One last comment: I've heard this book compared to "The Name of the Rose" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude". Don't let it scare you. This one will take you by the heart and take you on a flight you'll never forget.
Sr. Ruiz Zafon's extraordinary idea of creating a Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a labyrinthian library where each book awaits someone to choose it and give it another chance to live by making it part of the new owner's life, gave me chills. I thought Zafon's novel might indeed make an impact on my own life. There existed a possibility, as I read the first chapters, that I might be able to list this as one of my own favorite works of fiction. Unfortunately, my disappointment when reaching the novel's conclusion overshadowed the book's many positive elements.
Daniel Sempere, the young boy who fears he has forgotten the image of his dead mother's face, and his compassionate antiquarian book dealer father, who introduces him to the book cemetery, are wonderful characters. Many of Ruiz Zafron's other characters are also memorable and unusual, especially Fermin, a former Republican agent who becomes a second father to Daniel, and Julian Carax, the author of the book Daniel chooses. Daniel's choice of books ultimately determines the course of his life as he tries to discover if the author is still alive and solve the multitude of mysteries surrounding him.Read more ›
Through his cast of characters, Safón explores the depth of evil, the bitter-sweetness of our first unrequited love, and the invincibility of the human spirit when confronted with darkness. Rather than feeling pity for the emotional and physical traumas that his characters endure, Safón exalts them to serve as examples of how honor overwhelms shame, and how forgiveness subdues bitter rage.
Safón's book exceeded my expectations and inspired me to become a better writer.
How to classify the book? It's a bit fantasy, a bit historical drama, part romance, and all mystery. A young boy... that's how it begins, a young boy and his father... a secret library, a hidden book... A slow revelation of the history of the book and it's author, and the people in that history. The boy also makes his own personal history... his own mistakes his own friends, and attempts at relationships with girls... and demonstraing that life can be filled with wrong turns and deadends, and it's not life without those moves in the wrong directions. There is what seems to be an intentional simularity between the boy's personal adventure and the one lived by the author of the secret book, and it ties together perfectly.
What I struggle with, and this was well written, was comparing my fairly comfortable North American childhood versus the boy's (I should actually use his name) chidhood in a still dangerous time in Spain.
I was left wanting to read the book again, and I think that is high praise to the enjoyability of the novel. Deserving of the full 5 of 5 stars!
Most recent customer reviews
I'm a mystery fan and this was on the reading list for my book club. Not my favorite. The book is very, very slow and the mystery solution is obvious very soon into the story. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Russ C
I wish it had been more about the cemetery of lost books. Still, a good story.Published 27 days ago by Wendi Laing
Bought this book on kindle... have tried 4 times to get into the story.... found for some reason that I did not like any of the characters in the book, so continuing on was not... Read morePublished 10 months ago by roebag
Loved it! The first of Zafon's books that I had read and now I am hooked. A wonderful story of adventure and magic and suspense. It will keep you reading into the wee hours. Read morePublished 13 months ago by ZoeKegan
So beautiful to read. The translation is so good I didn't know it was originally written in Spanish. It's the kind of book you will want to read in one sitting.Published 13 months ago by Isabel Drinwkwalter