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The Shadow of the Wind [Paperback]

Carlos Ruiz Zafon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 5 2005
Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out 'La Sombra del Viento' by Julian Carax. But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax's work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

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Product Description

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.

From Booklist

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For dreamers and lovers Oct. 23 2007
Format:Paperback
I found this book entirely by acccident, in a shopping mall bookstore where I was killing time before catching a bus. I wandered all the way into the Z's, way over in the back corner behind a pile of boxes, and reached for the very last book on the very last shelf. I was hooked on page 2, standing right there in the bookstore, holding my breath and thinking: "Where the heck have you been all my life?"

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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read That Could Have Been A Great Novel May 5 2004
Format:Hardcover
Reading "The Shadow Of The Wind" was both a delight and a disappointment. This novel had the potential to be excellent literary fiction. At times Carlos Ruiz Zafron's work reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' and Jorge Luis Borges,' and my expectations rose dramatically as I began to hope for more than a good read. Instead of great literature, however, the novel became an overlong, predictable bestseller, ("bestseller" and "great" are not necessarily an oxymoron), with a most original premise, some brilliant passages and many flaws.
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different world. June 21 2007
Format:Paperback
While the book is full of page-turning melodrama and intrigue, the real power of it lies in its ability to draw you into the world of Barcelona during that era. Having visited there in the past, the book was able to fully capture my imagination and take me away to enjoy the adventures of Daniel first hand.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chase that dream Dec 30 2006
By Mundoo
Format:Paperback
This book started off slowly for me and I nearly put it down at one point. I perservered and by about half-way found it a very engrossing story. I didn't see the twist coming and was pleased that Daniel pursued his dream. It was interesting how the characters from the past and the present all came together in the story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid stuff March 2 2006
Format:Paperback
So many have likened THE SHADOW OF THE WIND to a few other books (McCrae's A TOUR OF SOUTHERN HOMES AND GARDENS was one, though I don't know why-another was ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE), that I had to check it out. Turns out that, while it does have excellent writing styles like those novels, the similarities end there. The plot is great: When Daniel is still a child, his father takes him to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books, a mysterious labyrinthine library filled with books from well-known novels to those that have faded into obscurity. He chooses a novel called "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax, a writer of dark melodramas that never sold more than 100 copies. In the two decades since Carax's novels appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, they had gained a cult following in Barcelona, where Carax was raised and Daniel lives with his widowed father. Daniel vows to protect and cherish the novel so that it won't be totally forgotten. The plot is dense, the characters are very well developed, and the book is gripping from the very first page, such that you won't put it down until you have read the last sentence on the very last page. you cant get enough of the story, you keep on reading until your eyes are dry and hurt, but you wont put the book down. this is one of the books that I will likely read a second and maybe a third time. honestly, I think this is the best book I have ever read, certainly one of the best five books. the sad thing is, once you finish it, you are certain that the next book you will read will not be as good, and the one after neither. It is a jewel. Must also recommend THE THORN BIRDS as another great read.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but took a long time to get interesting
It was a good read now that Im done.... I spend a long time contemplating if I should just give up on reading it because it didnt really draw me in that well. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Airhead456
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Finally decided to buy the book after borrowing it from friends for about the 5th time. Excellent read
Published 1 month ago by Victoria Chiwara
4.0 out of 5 stars amazing story line
I enjoyed this book very much. The descriptions of characters and settings were beautifully written. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Carol Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it twice
I am not a reader twice as there are so many books I want to get to that I am impatient slowing my reading pace to re read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mary Sawyer author ;Beyond Me
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic
I read this book years ago in Spanish. Recently a good friend went to Barcelona and loved it. I decided to get this book for her so she would realize what a magical palce it really... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lamppu
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story- fascinating setting.
Recommend to anyone who likes well-written books. Hero and characters were likeable (or not) a bit of mystery, romance, slightly gothic and based on books and real places. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kate
5.0 out of 5 stars I was in Barcelona and wandered into a small book shop...
I asked the clerk to help me find an english book - she recommnended Shadow of the Wind. I could not put it down! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Denise Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
I didn't expect this at all- a fantastic book that hit me with a great mix of magic realism and noir. What's not to love?
Published 7 months ago by Brad Micklea
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking
Someone previously said this book is for 'dreamers and lover' and I couln't agree more. I loved escaping into the the book's intriguing landscape with its enigmatic characters! Read more
Published 8 months ago by kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and suspenfull
A very well written book with and exquisite use of the language and impecable translation. Very difficul to stop reading.
Published 10 months ago by Jorge Zalkba
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