Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"The Shadow of the Wind" {by Carlos Ruiz Zafon} Book Review

TITLE OF THE BOOK: Shadow of the Wind
AUTHOR: Carlos Ruiz Zafon, translated to English by Lucia Graves


YEAR PUBLISHED: originally in Spanish, 2001 In English 2004.

PUBLISHER: Penguin Press

GENRE: Mystery/ Fiction


The novel, set in 1945, post Spanish Civil War Barcelona concerns a young boy, Daniel Sempere. Just after the war, Daniel's father, an antiquarian, takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few in attempts to comfort Daniel's mourning of the loss of his mother.  According to tradition, everyone initiated to this secret place is allowed to take one book from it and must protect it for life. Daniel selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. That night he takes the book home and reads it, completely engrossed. Daniel then attempts to look for other books by this unknown author but can find none. Instead, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been 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 opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
“ Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind.” –The Washington Post

Masterfully written, the novel is chocked full of symbolism and parallel of the seeker (Daniel) and the person being sought after (Julian) as both become engrossed and engulfed with the passion for writing, women and loyalty.  Shadow of the Wind is an epic story of murder, madness and doomed love.

Delicious Reads Rating: 4.5 Stars!

 We liked Zafon's fast-paced writing style with meticulous plotting like an onion with layers peeling away page after page. It is interesting to note that he has written a prequel to Shadow of the Wind entitled, The Angel's Game. He has also written and composed a soundtrack for the book that can be downloaded from his site HERE. When asked why he writes, Zafon responds,

"I said, I am in the business of storytelling. This is an art, a craft and a business, and I thank the Gods of Literature for that. I believe that when you pick up something I've written and pay for it, both in terms of your money and something much more valuable, your time, you are entitled to get the best I can produce. I believe this is not a hobby, it is a profession. If you're pretentious enough to believe that what you write might be worth other people's time (as I am), you should work hard enough to earn that privilege (as I do). Which brings me back to the question of why I write. Sometimes people ask me what piece of advice I would give to an aspiring author. I'd tell them that you should only become a writer if the possibility of not becoming one would kill you. Otherwise, you'd be better off doing something else. I became a writer, a teller of tales, because otherwise I would have died, or worse." 

As we followed our host, Angie Terburg, "through a palatial corridor.. through a labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves that rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms and bridges that presaged the immense plot of seemingly impossible geometry" (p5)  we, like Daniel, in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books were "stunned".  The meta-fiction aspect of the book (book-within-a-book) struck a chord with us as we are all book-lovers and could relate to Daniel's quest to find more of the literature that spoke to his soul.

The characters in the book were all wonderfully round, well-described and complex. The fact that they were all connected made for a wild ride and yet a bit confusing at times. We grew up with Daniel as he experiences his first fascination with a book, his first infatuation with Clara, and his first love with Beatrice.  Julian's dark, mysterious character takes monumental twists and turns leading for a fantastic ending. Fumero, we felt was a bit of "shock and awe" in his brutality and coarseness. The author describes him as, "moronic, which isn't quite the same thing as evil. Evil presupposes a moral decision, intention, and some forethought. A moron, or a lout, however, doesn't stop to think or reason. He acts on instinct, like a stable animal, convinced that he's doing good, that he's always right and sanctimoniously proud to go around messing you up." p 155
The themes of star-crossed but doomed lovers of Daniel & Beatrice and their quest for Julian & Penelope were discussed and we loved how the author included such parallels but some found them a bit predictable. Mixed feelings also ensued in the conversation about the REAL relationship of Julian & Penelope.  Other themes of loyalty and friendship were discussed in relation to Daniel and Thomas, Fermin and Daniel and Daniel's Father, Penelope and her governess Jacinta, Julian and Penelope and the 'rat pack' of Julian, Miquel, Fumero, & Jorge.

It was interesting how revenge played a key role in the plot of the story.  One example being the two opposite in Fumero and Fermin. Fumero let hate consume him to the point of insanity that lead to torturing others, including Fermin. Fermin on the other hand was able to move past the undeserved brutality paid to him and became a humble, trustworthy, friend. 

Quotes on love:

"Women have an infallible instinct for knowing when a man has fallen madly in love with them especially when the male in question is both a complete dunce and a minor." p 29 Daniel describing his hope for a relationship with Clara.

"You are talking to a professional in the craft of seduction an this business of kissing is for amateurs and little old men in slippers. Real women are won over bit by bit. It's all a question of psychology, like good faena in the bullring." p 132 Fermin giving unsolicited dating advice to Daniel

"Look Daniel. Destiny is usually around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker or a lottery vendor; it's three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it," p 225 Fermin encouraging Daniel to go after Beatrice

"Love is a lot like pork; there 's loin steak and there's bologna. Each has its own place and function." p 195 More gems from Fermin to Daniel

"My attempts at hating him were unsuccessful. I began to believe that Juilan was not a man, he was an illness." p 393 Nuria explaining her obsession with Julian

Quotes on character:

"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." Daniel reflecting on his post-war experiences as a child.

"Does a madman know he is mad? Or are the madmen those who insist on convincing him of this unreason in order to safeguard thwier own idea of reality? p 444 Nuria's letter to Daniel describing Julian.    

Quotes on books & reading:

"Television, my dear Daniel, is the Antichrist, and I can assure you that after only three or four generations, people will no longer even know how to fart on their own and humans  will return to living in caves, to medieval savagery, and to the general state of imbecility that slugs overcame back in the Pleistocene era. Our world will not die as a result of the bomb, as papers say, it will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything, and a lousy joke at that." p 107 Fermin to Daniel upon seeing a poster announcing the arrival of the first Phillips TV set in Barcelona

 "The art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day." P 484 Beatrice to Daniel in the bookshop quoting Julian (p 209)

 "Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader that the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later-- no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget-- we will return." (p8)

Final thoughts:
To quote The Washington Post, "Try to imagine a ben of Grand Guignol thriller, historical fiction, occasional farce, existential mystery and passionate love story; then double it.... Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, toughing, tragic, and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really you should."

 *CONTENT CATEGORIES*                          *RATING *
  LANGUAGE/PROFANITY:                            HEAVY, mostly by the antagonist Inspector Javier Fumero
  SEXUALITY:                                                   HEAVY, Julian's coming of age thoughts, 2-3 sex scenes 
  VIOLENCE:                                                    EXTREME, several abusive scenes, assalts, murder, blood
  DRUG/ALCOHOL USE:                                MEDIUM, smoking, alcohol                         
  INTENSE/SCARY SCENES:                           HEAVY, entire book is a intense suspenseful trip.
See our picture recap HERE!

1 comment :

Alanna said...

This book was very engaging and kept me guessing until the end. This was a great book for anyone who likes mysteries. "The Lottery" summary - I also recommend reading this book.