The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated by Lucia Graves
When I purchased this book, I was expecting to fall in love with it. I was hoping it would be the best book I would read all year. I thought it would enthrall me. I was disappointed.
The story is fascinating. Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Lost Books, where he discovers The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel loves the book, but when he begins to search for other books by Carax, he discovers that someone is systematically burning every copy of every book Carax has written. Daniel is drawn into the mystery surrounding the author’s life, a story of murder, lost love and madness. In the meantime, Daniel himself falls in love, his own story in a way echoing Carax’.
I told her until that moment 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. (pg. 179)
The writing is beautiful. Zafón has a lavish way of describing things, thoughts, feeling and actions. The setting, Barcelona 1945-1966, is wonderfully wrought, both the physical buildings and streets, but also the atmosphere.
We set off toward La Barceloneta. Before we knew it, we were walking along the breakwater until the whole city, shining with silence, spread out at our feet like the greatest mirage in the universe, emerging from the pool of the harbor waters. We sat on the edge of the jetty to gaze at the sight.
“This city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it.” (pg. 480)
The characters all have their strengths and weaknesses, their loves and wants, their problems and their joys. Even the secondary characters are fully drawn.
So why was I disappointed? I think it has more to do with my expectations than the book itself. I wanted to become so wrapped up in the story that I could read for hours without noticing. I wanted to care about these characters so much that I had to peek ahead to see what would happen. I didn’t. I never felt that impulse to read and read, who cares if dinner gets done. I never had to glance at the last chapter to see if Daniel gets the happy ending that Carax didn’t. I think it was a case of the hype surrounding the book overwhelming the book itself. I know most people loved it, though, so maybe it was just the mood I was in this month.