The Shadow of the Wind
By Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Here I am reading yet another book that its writer neglected to include the character of a dog. Still, if you are a DogPawFile member, I know you would not sit down to read a novel without the warm presence of your own beloved dog or dogs.
The Shadow of the Wind is about the influence of books upon people. Translated from Spanish to English, this novel reads with a heavy atmosphere of mystery, danger, and gloom. The drama is set in 1945 Barcelona, a city in recovery from civil war while under evil influence of a corrupt and murderous police force. The main character is introduced as ten year-old Daniel Sempere, the son of a bookseller. His mother has been dead six years, having succumbed to cholera. Daniel is a serious boy, with literary hopes and a lust for the unaffordable Montblanc pen displayed in a storefront window; a symbol for all he would write. One day his father takes him to a secret place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. On this rite of passage, Daniel is encouraged to choose one book – one he must never part with. His choice, Shadow of the Wind, becomes the catalyst of his quest for more books by the author, Julian Carax. The drama slowly unfolds over thirty years with the book a theme upon which Zafon sails his character’s search for identity and place. The book’s author’s own torments become Daniel’s torments. The search Daniel embarks upon is driven by a desire to read more of Carax’s books. Shadow of the Wind has touched Daniel’s heart, leaving its mark upon his very soul. Finding no more books by Carax, Daniel’s obsession switches to the reason for their scarcity, and the murky disappearance of their author.
This novel is resonate with vivid descriptors providing a feast for my mind’s eye such as, “…we walked the streets of Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper”, and this; “That year autumn blanketed Barcelona with fallen leaves that rippled through the streets like silvery scales”. A mood of mystery, lurking shadows, and haunting pasts is cast upon this reader, as with a poet’s voice the novel evokes feelings of trepidation as together with Daniel I sought what he sought. The pen remains a symbol throughout the prose to the end, for Daniel and life-battered Carax, more than a symbol, that pen is to be their redemption.
And so I recommend this book to those who love books, mysteries, and beautiful prose. Shadow of the Wind reached for me just as much as I reached for it. This book is an affirmation that books impact people. Books nestle their words, their voice, their experience into our hearts and minds. This book holds a dark magical spell; Book Noir comes to mind. Although I do highly recommend Shadow of the Wind, it may not be for everyone. Those who do not enjoy what might be called “wordy” text may be put off after the first couple chapters. I, for one, do enjoy these sorts of books. I savor the play of words, the sensory visions the author offers. There are books to read for different reasons. To read this book one would want to enjoy not only the drama of an unfolding mystery, but to emerge themselves in a world not their own. Time and place, mystery, political intrigue, evil, love’s misfortune, and the personal tragedy of Zafon’s characters are conveyed with sophisticated crafting and provocative sensory detail. I concur with Julian Carax – “Books are mirrors; you only see in them what you already have inside you”.
So make you and your dog comfy and read this great book together.