Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book #41: The Shadow of the Wind

Book #41: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (translated by Lucia Graves)
5/5 stars

I know, I know, I've been a bad reader. I've been super busy and have therefore been reading much slower than usual. However, it worked out well in a way, because The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is not a novel that can or should be rushed through, but rather devoured slowly and enjoyed thoroughly. Thank you to Grace Hobbs who recommended this novel to me in my "Book Suggestion" box. I hope that others continue to recommend me great books because I would have never known about this incredible novel without her tip!

The Shadow of the Wind was originally published in Spanish, and translated to English and sold here a few years later. I was shocked that a translated version of a novel could read so beautifully. Each sentence has clearly been crafted with thought behind it, and this is not "lost in translation" if I may. =)

The story follows Daniel from the time he is ten years old. His father takes him to "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books", which is basically heaven for someone like me. Daniel is allowed to pick from hundreds of books in the shop and take one that speaks to him, to be his special book for life. "According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive. It's a very important promise. For life." - Daniel's father, pg. 6. Daniel selects The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, and when he takes it home that night, he devours it much in the same way that I often do. Also, like me and many other avid readers, once Daniel has finished and fallen in love with the novel, he is eager to find more works by the author. However, he is met only with dead ends and mystery. It seems that there are few, if any, copies of Carax's novels left intact, because a mysterious man is obtaining and burning all of them.

Daniel, now intrigued by the author and this mystery, sets out on a journey over many years to discover why these incredible works are being destroyed, and who is doing so. However, as his questions lead him to different people who have been involved in this mystery over time, answers simply lead to more questions, and deeper mysteries. Along the way, Daniel encounters many different people, of different ages and backgrounds, who give him little pieces of the story that he must try to put together. With the help of an eclectic mix of friends, (including an intelligent but eccentric man named Fermin, who believes that television is the "Antichrist" and who has no sense of modesty at all) Daniel pursues the story of Carax, stopping at nothing to uncover the truth.

There is so much I could say about this novel but it would take forever. The characters are beautifully created; the story contains so many subplots within subplots, yet it is still easy to follow and intriguing until the very last page; the language is breathtaking. This novel is a masterpiece. There were times when I gasped or laughed aloud. I fell in love with Fermin, Daniel's crazy older friend and accomplice. He was a fantastic comic relief character who also had depth and was a wonderful addition to the novel. The quick mentions of Carax's fictional works caught my attention and made me wish that they were real, because the plots sounded so awesome! Daniel's perseverance is the strongest I've ever seen, in a novel or in real life, as he spans years searching for the true story of Carax and the mysterious man who burns his books. The Shadow of the Wind contains intrigue and mystery, but also love and heartbreak, comedy, tragedy, and history. Above all, as my friend Grace who recommended this book to me so beautifully put it: "It's a love letter to books and writing." Daniel, who aspires to be a writer himself, has such a beautiful perception of Carax's writing and of the world. He loves books as much as I do, which connected us immediately. This book was an incredible journey from start to finish. Leave yourself some time to read it, because it is best read slowly and carefully, partly to catch all of the clues, but mostly just so that you, as a reader, can fully recognize and enjoy the brilliance of this novel.

Note: Apparently this is the first is a series by Zafon. The second book is a prequel called The Angel's Game and the third is entitled The Prisoner of Heaven, though I don't know where in time it is supposed to take place. I can't wait to find out though!

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