The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (Book #1 of 4)
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery
Translated Edition Published: 2004 by Weidenfield & Nicholson, Orion Books (UK) & 2004 by Penguin Books (US)
The Shadow of the Wind was something truly special. Incredibly moving and beautifully written, it is a story within a story that so wonderfully captures the essence of how books (and the stories within) could make an indelible mark in our lives.
“Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we 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.”
I’ve heard a lot of great things about The Shadow of the Wind, and I’m pleased to say those praises were well-founded. I did not delve too much into the premise of the book before I started to read it, and was a bit surprised when I realised that it’s a coming-of-age story. The main protagonist, Daniel Sempere, was ten years old when he first discovered the in-world book, The Shadow of the Wind, and was then obsessed with discovering the story of Julian Carax, the author of the book; a story steeped with mystery and tragedy. Daniel found himself unequivocally connected to the story as he navigated through his own growing pains.
“I had not understood that this was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that that was why I had taken refuge in it until it became confused with my own life, like someone who has escaped into the pages of a novel because those whom he needs to love seem nothing more than ghosts inhabiting the mind of a stranger.”
There is a hauntingly melancholic quality to the narrative against the atmospheric backdrop of the city of Barcelona several years after the Spanish Civil War. The images that keep popping up in my mind were either washed in tones of brown or grey. Against this backdrop was a cast of characters that were well-typecasted and well-written, and one particularly interesting character who has the most delightful personality and manner of speech. Fermin was a bright splash of colour amidst the gloomy tones of this melancholic tale of loss, loneliness, grief and regrets.
“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.
Even in its translated form, the prose beautifully lyrical. The writing captured the mood and tone of the narrative perfectly. It was both a heartbreaking and hopeful tale with significant emotional depth and impact. While it was quite slow-paced, I found the story to be absolutely riveting as the mystery of Julian Carax gradually unfolded. All in all, The Shadow of the Wind was a captivating and unforgettable read.