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The Shadow of the Wind (2001)
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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Summary: Daniel Sempere’s life is changed when he finds a mysterious book in the Cemetery of Lost Books, and embarks on a quest to learn the true story of its mysterious author, one that places him in great peril.
Daniel Sempere is the son of a widowed bookseller, struggling to retain the memory of his mother’s face. Then his father takes him through the labyrinthine streets of Barcelona to the Cemetery of Lost Books where he is directed to find one book that would become his. The book he chooses will be one he is to make sure never disappears. The book he chooses is one titled The Shadow of the Wind by a Julian Carax. He is enthralled and would know more about its author.
His father sends him to a fellow bookseller, from whom he learns that he possesses the only copy, all the others having been burned. He falls for the man’s blind daughter, several years older than he, and even gives her the book at one point, only to catch her in flagrante with her piano teacher. He retrieves the book.
A mysterious, and seemingly sinister figure approaches him to buy the book. He calls himself Lain Coubert, the name of a character in the book. He smells of smoke and his face darkened, shriveled. Daniel refuses, keeps his commitment to the book, and to learning the truth of Carax. He is aided by a beggar, Fermin, who he and his father take in. Fermin turns out to be a fascinating figure, and his and Daniel’s investigations take them on escapades throughout the city, one of the funniest in an asylum where they make a promise to a horny old man, He becomes Daniel’s mentor in the art of love as Daniel falls in love with his friend Tomas’ sister Beatriz.
Their investigations bring upon them an old enemy of Fermin in the form of police detective Fumero, an ambitious figure who pushed a mentor to his death, and has a vendetta against Carax. Their investigations also lead to a woman with a connection to Carax’s publisher, Nuria Monfort. They learn that Carax had been in love with Penelope. the daughter of the powerful Aldaya family, coveted by Fumero. In the end, he flees to Paris, where Nuria came in contact with him. He was supposed to have returned to Barcelona for Penelope, only to have supposedly died in a duel–Julian’s father seems to indicate that it was not his son whose body was found. It turns out that Nuria knows much more, revealed in a letter she writes for Daniel when she realizes her own life is in danger. It occupies the last third of the novel, revealing the truth about Carax, as well as truths of which Carax was unaware.
The reader notices the parallels between Julian Carax and Daniel. Both worked for fathers, with mothers dead or estranged. Lain Coubert, a character of Carax, haunts Daniel. Then there are the loves of Julian and Daniel, including Daniel’s trysts with Beatriz in the abandoned Aldaya mansion. Above all, there is the book, and Daniel’s quest to know its author.
It’s a plot that drew me in, along with the delightful and sometimes riotous relationship between Daniel and Fermin. One almost can visualize their Barcelona (and the book includes a walking tour of the real places). Zafón has been compared to the likes of Eco and Marquez. I actually preferred Zafón, whose writing involved more realism and less magic, One delights in the affection of Daniel’s father for his son, and the loyalty between Daniel and Fermin, who supplants his friendship with Tomas. The one plot element I wonder about was using Nuria Monfort’s letter to unravel the mystery of Carax. So much of the story is in that letter, which is a engrossing read, but one wonders if Zafón could not find another way to unravel the story through the investigations of Daniel and Fermin.
The novel doesn’t end with the letter bur I will refrain from saying much more except to say, what an ending, well worth the 450 pages that precede it!
Another book I am so very late to get on the high praise train.
If you want to know what absolute masterful storytelling is like, read The Shadow of The Wind.
The book has it all and the telling of this sweeping epic story is nearly beyond compare.
I finished The Shadow of the Wind. All 487 pages of it.
It's a mystery and a love story and a suspense thriller all rolled into one. And it manages to be quite literary while doing it. The story is told through the eyes of a young teenager, Daniel, as he attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding a book he has obtained from a Cemetary of Forgotten Books. And it's quite a complex mystery. Daniel's path crosses with many fascinating characters, and the suspense just doesn't quit.
The plot really didn't sound all that appealing to me when I read the synopsis, but somehow I ended up not just caring about why all the books from this particular author were disappearing, but being completely mesmerized by the story. Putting this book down was a very unwelcome option, but with two young boys I didn't have a whole lot of choice so it took me about three weeks to finish.
So here are my ratings:
Tension/Engaging: 5 stars - I just wanted to hole up in my bedroom never to emerge until I finished.
Language: 4 stars - It's not the most beautifully written book I've ever read, but it may be the most beautifully written suspense story.
Emotion: 4 stars - I didn't cry or anything. The love story didn't tear out my heart. But heart palpitations? Yes, I had some of those.
Character Development: 3 stars - There are a lot of characters in this book. I think the main ones - Daniel and Fermin - are well drawn and by and large sympathetic. The problem is that the minor characters are very important too, and I never quite felt that I got enough info about them to completely care about what happened to them.
Dialogue: 3 stars - It's good. I never found myself saying - who the hell would say something like that?
Worth the Effort: 4 stars - Long novels are tough sometimes, but not this one. It would have received 5 stars except for one thing that really annoyed me. At the end of the book, the author uses a letter written by one of the minor characters to resolve the loose ends of the plot. The letter is interesting, but it is much more of a narrative compared to the initial 400 or so pages. I think using a letter to wrap up the plot probably kept this from being a 800 page book, but I'd rather just read the 800 pages.A letter just seemed contrived to me. Fortunately, by the time you get to it, you are just so darn curious that you almost don't care.
Social commentary/theme: 3 stars
There are a few references to World War II, but very few. This book isn't meant to be political, and it sheds no great light on world history. And I liked it that way.
Originality: 3 stars - I think what I find to be most original about this book is how it seems literary while at the same time prodding you to skip dinner in order to keep reading. Many other reviewers compared this author to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've only read One Hundred Years of Solitudeso perhaps I'm not being fair, but I enjoyed this book ten times more than that one, which I found tedious. Just because both of these guys are Spanish doesn't mean they must be comparable. I've read 'em both, and I don't see it at all. Marquez may be a literary darling, but Zafon is an author any reader can love.
I love gothic novels and the setting of this one in postwar Spain was immensely appealing. I liked but did not love this novel. The first third or so are wonderful. The revelations in the last third, however, do not match the promise and intensity of the set up. Well worth the read for lovers of gothic novels and books about books. But won't be a reread for me.
It's lowdown and lazy, but here goes: ''Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges'' for a sprawling magic show, exasperatingly tricky and mostly wonderful, by the Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The three illustrious meeters must surely have been drinking and they weave about a little, but steady remarkably as the pages go by.
Als een boekverkoper zijn tienjarige zoon meeneemt naar het paleisachtige, geheimzinnige Kerkhof der Vergeten Boeken, raakt Daniel betoverd door De schaduw van de wind. Hij neemt zich voor achter de identiteit van de schrijver Julian Carax te komen. Sterker nog: hij lijkt het leven van deze mysterieuze man te gaan leven. Tegen de achtergrond van het Barcelona van de Burgeroorlog en Franco ontrolt zich een fascinerend verhaal, of feitelijk vele verhalen over figuren die zich in de nabijheid van Carax ophielden én mensen rondom Daniel. De structuur van het verhaal is als een Russische pop, die eindeloos veel kleinere poppen in zich heeft verstopt. Carlos Ruiz Zafon (1964) heeft een fantasierijke, knappe roman geschreven vol avontuur, spanning, en liefde, die je in één adem uitleest. Zijn taalgebruik is prachtig, zijn belezenheid groot en de vertaling is vloeiend. Velen zullen van deze onderhoudende, intelligente roman genieten.
The Shadow of the Wind is a dream date for those who love books.... For fans of Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco and other writers who craft twisting and turning plots with complex characterization, The Shadow of the Wind is not to be missed.
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Carlos Ruiz Zafon Collection: Marina, the Shadow of the Wind, the Angel's Game & (hardcover) the Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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Wikipedia in English (1)
A boy named Daniel selects a novel from a library of rare books, enjoying it so much that he searches for the rest of the author's works, only to discover that someone is destroying every book the author has ever written. Barcelona, 1945-just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly. As with all astounding novels, The Shadow of the Wind sends the mind groping for comparisons- The Crimson Petal and the White? The novels of Arturo Peacute-Reverte? Of Victor Hugo? Love in the Time of Cholera ?-but in the end, as with all astounding novels, no comparison can suffice. As one leading Spanish reviewer wrote, ldquo. The originality of Ruiz Zafoacute's voice is bombproof and displays a diabolical talent. The Shadow of the Wind announces a phenomenon in Spanish literature. An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller's art.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)863.64Literature Spanish and Portuguese Spanish fiction 20th Century 1945-2000
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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.