Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published: 2001 (in Spanish)
Recommendation: A treat for anyone who loves books. Buy it. Read it.
Summary: It's 1945 in Barcelona, and Daniel is 10 when his father first takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There on his first visit he can choose a book, one he will adopt and keep alive in his heart for the duration of his life. Little does Daniel know how The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax is going to twine itself into his future.
Reactions: The reason I bought this book was an excellent review of it that I've read a while ago. Still The Shadow of the Wind exceeded my expectations. It's one of those books that just pulls you in, plunges you into its world, makes you worry, laugh, and cry. I read it late into the night and woke up thinking about each morning. It is completely engrossing.
A number of things make this novel outstanding. First is language. It's hard to tell in translated books whether it's the writing or the translation mastery that make the book what it is. Perhaps it's the combination of both. Either way the language is very lyrical, it conveys the mood exactly without being overly ornamental. It's easy to read, but it's not simplistic.
Second, I fell in love with the characters. Daniel is growing up in post-war Barcelona, his love of books, his friendships and his loves are so real and touching at the same time. Fermin, a friend Daniel makes, is courageous, funny, loyal, smart without being in any way perfect. And finally, Julian Carax, a mysterious enigma of an author who disappeared years ago and whose character we slowly learn through the narration of others.
To top it off, there is mystery, adventure, love, grief, and some humour. The plot weaves itself in an intricate fashion, tying threads of characters together into an exquisite fabric. There is a passage at the start of The Shadow of the Wind which draws out Daniel's experience of reading The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. It's a good example of the language, the plot of the book, and my feelings towards The Shadow of the Wind:
As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections. The minutes and hours glided by as in a dream. When the cathedral bells tolled midnight, I barely heard them. Under the warm light cast by the reading lamp, I was plunged into a new world of images and sensations, peopled by characters who seemed as real to me as my room. Page after page I let the spell of the story and its world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page.I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Definitely the best I've read this year.