Monday, September 12, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I'm on the fence about this book. There were so many aspects that I loved: the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, how cool was that place? Daniel's sidekick, Fermin, so quirky and funny, had me laughing out loud; and the writing, so literary and evocative, was really quite lovely to read. But I had a problem with the endless backstories and explanations of how things came to be. I know authors are supposed to *show* instead of tell; but sometimes, for the sake of Getting On With The Story, I'm okay with just being told.

Once underway, though, I couldn't put it down. Not only because I wanted to see what happened next, but because all the various characters and their backstories had me rereading passages to remind myself of what was what and who was who again. Really, a story like this is best read in one or two sittings; the fewer interruptions, the better - isn't that always the case? Shadow of The Wind is a wonderfully atmospheric mystery story, great for this time of year.

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Soon Daniel's seemingly innocent quest open's a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets - an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love. (back cover)

I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day. pg4

In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you can keep such a secret? pg6

I had never heard of the title or the author, but I didn't care. The decision had been taken. I pulled the volume down with great care and leafed through the pages, letting them flutter. Once liberated from its prison on the shelf, the book shed a cloud of golden dust. Pleased with my choice, I tucked it under my arm and retraced my steps through the labyrinth with a smile on my lips. Perhaps the bewitching atmosphere of the place had got the better of me, but I felt sure that The Shadow of the Wind had been waiting for me there for years, probably since before I was born. pg7

There's no such thing as dead languages, only dormant minds. pg15

"Never before had I felt trapped, seduced, and caught up in a story," Clara explained, "the way I did with that book. Until then, reading was just a duty, a sort of fine one had to pay teachers and tutors without quite knowing why. I had never known the pleasure of reading, of exploring the recesses of the soul, of letting myself be carried away by imagination, beauty and the mystery of fiction and language. For me all those things were born with that novel. Have you ever kissed a girl, Daniel?" pg27

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep. pg35

Someone once said that the moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you've already stopped loving that person forever. pg176

Well, this is a story about books.


About books?


About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that lie in the shadow of the wind. pg178

I counted up to three and then started to run. Minutes later, soaked to the bone and shivering, I stopped under a doorway to get my breath back. I scrutinized the rest of the route. The storm's icy blast blurred the ghostly outline of mansions and large, rambling houses veiled in the mist. Among them, rose the dark and solitary tower of the Aldaya mansion, anchored among the swaying trees. pg228

The house had its own character and proved immune to the influence of its new owners. The recent arrivals complained about noises and banging on the walls at night, sudden putrid smells and freezing drafts that seemed to roam throughout the house like wandering sentinels. The mansion was a compendium of mysteries. pg237













RIP book #1 - check!

17 comments:

Carl V. said...

I own two copies of this book and still have not read it. Until I heard about The Lantern, this was the book I was planning on hosting for an October group read so that I would have the motivation to finally getting around to reading it. LOL.

I think the premise sounds wonderful and the book has certainly garnered much praise. Hopefully I can go into it without sky high expectations and can just enjoy it for what it is.

Beth said...

Loved these excerpts:

“I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.”

“One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep.”

The book is on my To Read list…

Trish said...

carl - it certainly is a fabulous book and would be great for a group read - there's lots to discuss! But, yes, the expectations. I was expecting fireworks to go off, and for me, they just didn't.

beth - beautiful, aren't they? I really loved his writing.

Tracy said...

We read this for bookclub a few years ago, and we liked some aspects, but not so keen on others (and this is one of the few books we agreed about). I loved the descriptions of Barcelona, having been there, it was easy to picture how it used to be. I didn't like the ending, and the 'mysterious hero' felt too comic book. We gave it 7/10.

carolsnotebook said...

I actually didn't love this one, even though I really wanted to.

DesLily said...

Read this book a while back and his second book also.. both very good reads. I especially did like Shadow of the Wind though

Trish said...

tracy - that sounds about the way I feel, too. It was good, but . . . .

carol - yes I also had high hopes for this one.

deslily - I wonder what the other book is like? I'm interested enough to give it a try.

Kailana said...

People spoke so highly of this book back when it came out, so I wound up buying a copy... Still haven't read it! One of these days I will!

Nan said...

Wow, those excerpts are sure appealing, especially the ones about books. Maybe I'll try to get it from the library.

Trish said...

kailana and nan - I hope you get to reading it soon. I'd love to know how you like it.

Bear said...

I love books that draw your into the charaters in a truly engaging way. It sounds like Daniel and Fermin are going to be fascinating to follow.

I love the quote about "There are no dead languages."

Thanks for the great review and I look forward to your next R.I.P. read.

Aleksandra said...

This one is still waiting for me on my shelf. I don't know when I'll get to it, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love how you described it: A wonderfully atmospheric mystery story :)

Trish said...

bear - thanks! the characters, yes. I haven't enjoyed characters as much as I enjoyed those two.

aleksandra - it waited on my shelf for over a year before I finally got to it. I hope you'll like it, too.

Priya said...

When I read this book, I loved it. I couldn't put it down!! I loved Fermin, of course, and all the beautiful descriptions of Julian Carax's books! Retrospectively though, I don't think the book has much depth. Now if it were a true story, I'd understand the appeal. But this is just a series of beautifully written things happening one after another! I am on the fence now, too.

Raine said...

I placed this book in my TBR Thursday list and when the concert (this September) is over, I can concentrate on the book titles I'm interested to check out. I like the that you added excerpts especially this one, "In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you can keep such a secret? pg6"

Trish said...

Priya - yes, the writing really makes this book.

Raine - I hope you like the rest of it, too. There were really so many more excerpts I could have used. It was hard to choose!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I loved this book, even though I felt it was a teensy bit too long. Beautifully translated, huh? I couldn't put it down. I'm a big fan of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, too.