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The Shadow of the Wind Paperback – January 25, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Ruiz Zafón's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue à la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermín are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Call it the "book book" genre: this international sensation (it has sold in more than 20 countries and been number one on the Spanish best-seller list), newly translated into English, has books and storytelling--and a single, physical book--at its heart. In post-World War II Barcelona, young Daniel is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a massive sanctuary where books are guarded from oblivion. Told to choose one book to protect, he selects The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. He reads it, loves it, and soon learns it is both very valuable and very much in danger because someone is determinedly burning every copy of every book written by the obscure Carax. To call this book--Zafon's Shadow of the Wind-- old-fashioned is to mean it in the best way. It's big, chock-full of unusual characters, and strong in its sense of place. Daniel's initiation into the mysteries of adulthood is given the same weight as the mystery of the book-burner. And the setting--Spain under Franco--injects an air of sobriety into some plot elements that might otherwise seem soap operatic. Part detective story, part boy's adventure, part romance, fantasy, and gothic horror, the intricate plot is urged on by extravagant foreshadowing and nail-nibbling tension. This is rich, lavish storytelling, very much in the tradition of Ross King's Ex Libris (2001). Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is a gothic tale set in 1945, Barcelona. Daniel, the bookseller’s son, is introduced to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and makes his selection of one book from the labyrinth to take home and care for. In doing so, he finds himself involved in a real-life mystery. You see, the book he selected was written by a man named Julian Carax, and very well may be the last book in existence by Carax. Someone has been finding the Carax works and destroying them.
I love that it is a book about a book! I love the story, but I also love the writing itself, and how Zafon has a style that makes me want to keep reading. The man is a beautiful writer. The “Angel of the Mist” story that begins on page 233 is a haunting touch, as is Maria Jacinta’s detailing of her encounters with Zacarias (begin on page 260), and the storyline of Daniel and Fermin visiting her in the asylum.
I loved this first book so much that I immediately started reading the second book in the series, and I am about 200 pages in to “The Angel’s Game,” right now! To think, I found this gorgeous read because of a visit to the Book Warehouse over the July 4 weekend, where I unwittingly purchased the third book in the series first!
Mr Zafon's book is engrossing, the characters are so rich you feel you know them, and can picture them in your mind, even the villains. His descriptions of post-war Barcelona is so deliciously evocative, you can feel yourself riding the trams through the neighbourhoods to follow the characters around in that place and time.
When you finish this book, you will feel torn away from friends when you close the cover. However, you can reunite with them again in Zafon's "The Prisoner Of Heaven" which picks up with the characters.
HIghly recommend this if you love mystery, adventure and well-drawn characters.
Daniel embarks on a quest to discover who Carax was, and the story of his tragic life. Along the way he unravels a story of corruption, murder, passion, obsession, and mysterious identity, in the years preceding and immediately following the Spanish Civil War and World War II. This setting provides a rich backdrop which Zafón uses very effectively, creating a malevolent atmosphere that seethes with intrigue, brutality and betrayal. As Daniel peels back the layers of mystery, he finds his own life mirroring that of Julián's, and he finds himself trapped in a web of intrigue and revenge.
Zafón is clearly a very talented writer, who rightly has been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Luis Borges, but alas in this case he comes up short. The writing displays flashes of brilliance, but the plot exposition is meandering and overly long, with a significant portion of the story being clumsily depicted in the form of narrative letters. His development of the characters is, in the main, masterfully done, with many being memorable and expertly drawn, although others are less well treated. Daniel's adopted uncle, Fermin, for example, is a fascinating individual, while Daniel's father is rather one-dimensional.
Another disappointment for me was the use of language. At times, particularly in the first third or so of the book, I found the idioms strangely constructed in places - whether this true of the original Spanish, or Lucia Graves' translation, I can't say. It was clumsy enough to be distracting, and at times I felt as if the English was written by a non-native speaker.
On the whole, the story is fascinating and pleasurable. I can recommend "The Shadow of the Wind" as a good read, one that I enjoyed myself, but it is also one that is vaguely disappointing, one that made me feel as if the novel that this could have been is merely the shadow of the wind.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is a novel that needs to be read continuously or it is east to lose track.