Friday 18 March 2011

Book Review: Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind is the story of ten your old Daniel, son of a gentle bookseller in 1945 Barcelona – how many books have you come across set in 1945 Barcelona? Certainly had me intrigued.

On Daniel’s tenth birthday his father takes him to a secret library hidden underneath the city where he is allowed o choose one book. He chooses a little known title by a virtually unknown author – “The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.

The book enchants him and the mystery of the author haunts him and over the years Daniel finds that he is not the only one interested in the book and that the story of the author’s life is far more intriguing and horrifying than he could imagine.

Set in post-Spanish civil war Barcelona, this book spans just about every genre you can think of – gothic horror, murder mystery, thriller, comedy and romance. It weaves a number of stories – from that of the loss of Daniels mother and the grief of his father, to those of the wonderfully colourful characters in their neighbourhood. Then there is Daniel’s love story (two of them actually), the mystery of Carax, the strange matter of the homeless man Daniel’s father employs – Fermin and a cast of interesting characters from all over Barcelona.

The book is translated very smoothly from the Spanish, without feeling that you have lost something or that it is stilted in any way. The characters in this book are a treat – General Franco’s brutal police men, Daniel’s gentle, dreamy father, the kind cross-dressing neighbourhood watchmaker, an abbey full of mischievous old people, and the wonderful Fermín Romero de Torres. The book is almost worth reading for this one character alone – wistful, frightened, flamboyant and very, very funny.

My only criticism would be that with so much happening in the book and the plot within the plot, the book was confusing in places and I had to back track a little to keep tabs on what was happening. Otherwise, this book was one I thoroughly enjoyed for it's colour, wit and intelligence and would recommend to others (the part with the nuns and mischievous old people alone is worth the read).

Kooky Little Sis has “The Prince of Mist” by the same author, so we will be swapping and I am on the lookout to the prequel to this book “The Angel's Game”.

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