I have always believed that a book finds you, if it wants you to read it. I think that happens to most of us – to the reader who waits patiently for the book to come along and take him or her on a ride that cannot be forgotten. Two people and very different people at that told me to read, “The Shadow of the Wind”. I always wanted to, but did not. I guess my time had to come on its own. I had to wait for the book and it has been a wait worth it like no other.
“The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is everything you expect from a well-written book. The plot makes you turn the pages. The sentences and language make you fall in love with the writer’s thought process. The characters make you connect with them at all levels of human emotions and more than anything else, this book is about love for literature and reading, and not letting the written word die.
The book is about the search of a boy, Daniel Sempere for the truth about the fate of Julian Carax, the author of a mystery novel (also named The Shadow of the Wind). Daniel adopts the book when his father, a bibliophile and a bookseller takes him to the metaphorical (or real) Cemetery of Forgotten Books and it is there that he owns the book and gets embroiled in its author’s life. He sets out to search for more books written by him and to know what happened to him. In all of this, he learns of someone who is named after one of Carax’s characters and has set out to burn every single copy of Carax’s books and will not stop at anything. Daniel gets involved with him as well and the story thickens. It is one tale after another, intertwined and encompassing the length and breadth of great storytelling, till the reader with bated breath reaches the end of the book.
The book is about Barcelona’s deepest and darkest secret that is about to be revealed, which of course the reader has to discover for himself or herself.
Zafon’s characters are haunting and well thought after. He is the master of mood setting. Every page speaks of scenes with mists, clouds, evenings, darkness, the pale lamplight, thunder, rain and Zafon brilliantly so makes the reader a part of his atmosphere and setting, so much so that I actually thought I was living all of it in Barcelona (where the story is set). Zafon speaks of books like living beings, which I also think they are and he makes them real for the readers in his book.
To a very large extent, the book is extraordinary because of the way the author is treating every word – with great caution and love. When this happens in a book, it is but natural that the reader will also read every word with great love and joy.
With reference to the setting, which is Barcelona before the Spanish Civil War, Zafon talks of politics and life with great passion and almost wants the reader to know how important the setting is to the story. Books about books have always fascinated me and this was also one of those reads. It is very difficult to classify “The Shadow of the Wind” in one genre and yet to a large extent I think the book belongs to Literary Fiction as it covers almost every aspect of life and living. There is courage, intrigue, love, fairy tale quality, Goth, redemption, politics, love, hate, passion and almost every other emotion and characteristic that you can think of in the book. The quality of writing, the old school setting, the power of storytelling, the characters and the plot, all come together and speak of books and reading and the love for them. I could go on and on about this book and the writing, but you know what I mean when I say: Read this book soon or let it find you the way it found me.