The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2001; translation: 2004 by Lucia Graves), 487 pages
The Shadow of the Wind opens in 1945 as 10-year-old Daniel Sempere, son of a Barcelona bookseller, visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time (on the morning of the day he awakes having forgotten what his departed mother looked like). Sempere is allowed to take one book home with him, agreeing to take responsibility for the book being remembered. The book he chooses, The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, keeps him spellbound. When he learns that Carax grew up in Barcelona and that all other known copies of the book (all books by Carax, for that matter) have been burned by a mysterious figure, his interest in the story only grows. But as Sempere digs, the questions only grow more numerous.
This book was recommended to me by a reading friend, years ago. I had it waiting in my TBR pile for just a couple months, but moved it way up when I received an advance copy of Ruiz Zafón’s The Angel’s Game (a prequel to Shadow of the Wind, due out June 16, 2009).
Burning question: How come no one told me this was a book within a book story? I trusted my friend’s recommendation, but I think I might have been more urgent in my pursuit of this volume if I’d known that it’s a story within a story within a story.
I was hooked from the first paragraph.
The writing is beautiful. Probably not the most beautiful language I’ve ever read, but lovely indeed. It begs to be read slowly. The Barcelona setting really shines. I want to visit.
I would call this a gothic novel, but it’s not as dark as I would expect gothic novels to be. It’s definitely literary fiction. It reminds me, at least in some ways, to the movie Pan’s Labyrinth (use of imagery, perhaps?). I appreciated that the author doesn’t spoon feed the reader. He assumes a certain level of intelligence (or attention to detail, in this case), which only makes it better.
A grand, sweeping tale, beautifully told. I loved this book.
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