Shadow of the Wind: Review

Barcelona 1945. A city recovering slowly from the ravages of the Spanish Civil War. In the dark, labyrinthine streets of the Gothic quarter, Daniel Sempere lives above the bookshop owned by his widowed father.

Daniel is 10; old enough his father decides to be introduced to the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, to select one book from its shelves and assume the mantle of responsibility for that book throughout the rest of his life.

But the book he chooses, ‘The Shadow of the Wind’  written by the relatively unknown Julián Carax, holds a secret. And in attempting to unravel it’s mystery, Daniel puts himself and his friends in danger. For someone is systematically tracking down and destroying every copy of every book written by Carax. And now they seem bent on destroying Daniel too.

On the basis of this plot alone, Zafon’s book would be a page turner. But it could so easily be simply one of those books that you race through, enjoying the twists and turns and wondering how the final denouement will be executed. Enjoyable but transient like so many other historical-murder-mystery stories. Except, like Eco’s The Name of the Rose this one is different.

It’s a novel of multiple layers and an intricately-woven plot. Within the Gothic-mystery outer layer lies a Bildungsroman, a political thriller, and a romance. Star-crossed lovers share the page with skeletons and bricked up walls and a truly menacing police officer in the shape of Fumero who is corruption and decadence personified.

What lifts Shadow of the Wind above the ordinary, is Zafon’s skill in creating atmosphere. Even in translation, the quality of his writing shines through. Walk with him down Barcelona’s winding, cobbled streets or through the leafy avenues of crumbling, ivy-clad mansions, and every building and corner seems to ooze with dark secrets of the past.  Go with Daniel and his friend  Fermín, a former Republican agent hideously tortured by Fumero, to a nearby cafe and you can almost taste the tortillas and strong coffee.

It’s a heady mixure.

Footnote:

In an interview some years ago Zafon talked about his feelings towards Barcelona and reflects on the success of his novel. Read the interview here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3648339/The-shadow-maker.html

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on October 7, 2012, in Book Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I loved this but haven’t been able to get into any of his other books. Have you read any others and if so, what would you recommend?

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  2. This was my first experience of Zafon Alex so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help. I see from his website though that Shadow of the Winds is the first of a trilogy so I’ll be adding these to my list. What did you read that you didn’t enjoy?

    here’s his site
    http://www.carlosruizzafon.co.uk

    And here’s a review of the second in the trilogy – it seems that the features I enjoyed in Shadow of the Winds are evident again. Think I’ll put this one on the list to be read at Christmas…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/13/the-angels-game-carlos-ruiz-zafon

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  3. It was ‘The Angel’s Game’ that I couldn’t get into. I think, perhaps I need to wait until the entire trilogy is available and then try reading straight through.

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  4. Hi!

    I just love Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing. In fact, I’ve already reviewed a few of his books, and I’m currently giving away a copy of The Prince of Mist, one of his many novels.
    I hope you can stop by and enter my giveaway, since I can notice you really enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind.

    Andreia @ Tyrony.com

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  5. I really loved this book when I read it a little while ago. I have the entire trilogy and plan on reading all three together at some point next year.

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  1. Pingback: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon [review] | BookerTalk

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