Friday, April 17, 2009

The Shadow of the Wind

Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2001 (in Spanish)

Recommendation: A treat for anyone who loves books. Buy it. Read it.
Rating: 10/10

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.


  1. Maria, I'm glad you liked it so much. I read it last year and to be honest this was one of the best books I read in my life.
    Anyway it's a bit funny: I German and read book from a Spanish author on English :>) Now I look forward to read The Angel's Game.

  2. Yes, I was excited to see that The Angel's Game is going to be released in June. Definitely planning to read it.

    I think I saw a mention somewhere that The Shadow of the Wind also got translated to German. How come you had to pick it up in English?

  3. Some years ago I started to read books in English. And in 2008 I started to read blogs and especially reviews. To be honest there are more interesting blogs outside of Germany. And there are many books which aren't translated to German.In Germany English books are a lot cheaper than German books or translated books. Last year I read some really promising reviews of The Shadow of the Wind - all in English. After reading these reviews it was no question that I wanted to read the English version. After reading the book I recognised that there is a German version too.
    Finally to be honest there are a lot of expressions which sound a lot better in English than in German. Nowadays 90 % of my books are in English. In the meantime also my wife prefers to read in English.

  4. I only got as far as 10/10 because I really want to read this one and don't want to know anything more about this. So glad you enjoyed it that much. I really look forward to this one.

  5. ediFanoB, that's pretty interesting. I'd love to read The Shadow of the Wind in another language and compare. I don't speak Spanish though.

    I guess I can see the English book market being broader. But a lot of non-English authors come up with books that are really interesting to me because they are so different. Are there any German authors that get translated to English that you would recommend?

  6. Carl, I am confident you will enjoy The Shadow of the Wind. Looking forward to reading your review of it.

  7. Its funny because I own two copies of it. Someone bought me this same one for a gift and, trusting the many reviewers who loved this, I bought the collectible version from Subterranean Press. Probably about time I read a book that I own two copies of. :)