April 30, 2008
The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2001 Penguin Press
Quit on 4/19/08
Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax. When the boy searches for Carax’s other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author’s identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.
This is my book club's choice for May. I'd heard great things about the novel and was very excited to finally have a reason to read it. The first hundred pages or so started out very well, but after that my interest began to wane. I kept plugging along, hoping to get more interested the further along I read. No such luck. But as it happens, I need to fly to San Diego the day of book club anyway, and will miss The Shadow of the Wind discussion. Actually, I'm disappointed that I won't be here to hear all the comments from those in the group who have told me they're enjoying the book. I have a feeling I'm going to miss out on a lively gathering!
This is a tricky narrative. The reader is constantly introduced to new characters. There's a story within a story, peopled with characters similar to those in the real book. If I had to read it again, I'd want to make some sort of an organizational chart, showing who belonged to which story.
In spite of my lack of enthusiasm for the novel, I did mark a few passages:
That afternoon, back in the apartment on Calle Santa Ana, I barricaded myself in my room to read the first few lines. Before I knew what was happening, I had fallen right into it... The minutes and hours glided by as in a dream. When the cathedral bells tolled midnight, I barely heard them. Under the warm light cast by the reading lamp, I was plunged into a new world of images and sensations, peopled by characters who seemed as real to me as my room. Page after page I let the spell of the story and its world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page. I lay in the bluish half-light with the book on my chest and listened to the murmur of the sleeping city. My eyes began to close, but I resisted. I did not want to lose the story's spell or bid farewell to its characters yet.
Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that 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 place 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. For me those enchanted pages will always be the ones I found among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
In my school boy reveries, we were always two fugitives riding on the spine of a book, eager to escape into worlds of fiction and secondhand dreams.
I'd love to hear your thoughts if you loved (or hated) this book.