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April 30, 2008

The Shadow of the Wind


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Contemporary Fiction
2001 Penguin Press
Quit on 4/19/08
Rating: DNF




Book Description

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.

and

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.

19 comments:

  1. I read it a few months ago and loved it. I liked it when I finished it but I liked it even more after I had some time to digest it. I thought the way the story unraveled itself was truly spectacular.

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  2. My friend Teresa loved it recommended it to me - I just bought it, so I'll let you know...the premise sounds really interesting (thanks for the org. chart recommendation!).

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  3. This is on my TBR stack. I've mostly read positive reviews so will be interested to see how I feel about it.

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  4. I read it and reviewed it at the beginning of this year http://thewrittenword.wordpress.com/2008/01/03/the-shadow-of-the-wind-2/
    I found it to be an interesting read and one that everybody in my book club enjoyed. Too bad you didn't get as much pleasure from reading it than I did.

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  5. I'm one of the few who didn't care for this all that much. I loved the first chapter, but it was all downhill from there. I hated all the female characters and thought most of the male characters mistreated them.

    The story itself was good -- if he would have left out those specific parts above, I would have enjoyed it.

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  6. I read it two or three years ago, and I remember feeling 'meh,' and that the book didn't live up to the concept. But I don't remember much about the actual book, lol.

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  7. Oh bummer. Sorry you couldn't get into it. I loved it. I also read it for a book group discussion.

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  8. I really liked it when I read it a few years ago. I do think the story had a few bumps in it but the setting was great. It's largely because of this book that I really want to visit Barcelona someday! :)

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  9. It's been a while since I read this book, but I remember feeling very disappointed by it. It started off great but quickly deteriorated into a melodramatic and predictable piece of fluff. But I agree with you that it's very quotable. :) I just wish that the execution lived up to the premise.

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  10. I haven't read it, yet, but I've got a copy. Hope you like your next read better.

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  11. I own this book because I heard really good things about it. Unfortunately, I was bored by the first sentence (a record for me) and didn't get any farther than that. I figure that's not really fair, so I may try again. Or not.

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  12. I read this two years ago. On the whole I did enjoy it. I thought it started really well, and ended well, but the middle was well - middling. It was the involvement with books that I found the best parts.

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  13. So of course, it's MY book club's choice for June! I read it several years ago, and as I recall I felt mixed about it. Part of it was enthralling with the whole book loving thing; part of it was annoying with all the characters. I remember writing lists on the inside back cover because I couldn't keep anyone straight. But, maybe that's just because my concentration's going...I'm reading it again this month, so I'll get back to you with more current thoughts. Helpful, or not, as they may be. :P

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  14. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. It looks like this is one of those books you either love or hate (hate's a bit harsh - let's say disliked). Kind of like Atonement. Or, The Life of Pi. I hope those of you who have yet to read it have a better experience than those of us in the "dislike" column. And, Katya! The first sentence?! Yah, I think you might have been a bit hasty. Perhaps you should give it at least a page. ;)

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  15. I read this a couple of years ago and loved it. But I understand how you feel - there have been plenty of books others have loved that did nothing for me at all. Glad you were able to find some passages you liked!

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  16. I have it on my 'to read' pile and look forward to getting to it. I have a good feeling about it based on things I've heard but we'll see.

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  17. Ex Libris & Carl - I've had several friends from my book club strongly suggest that I pick this up again. They say it really gets quite engrossing and worthwhile right around the point where I stopped reading. I have a trip to San Diego coming up in another week or so and I'm toying with the idea of taking this along for the flights. Maybe all I need is a big chunk of time to get thoroughly engrossed. We'll see. I may have a second review in the coming weeks.

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  18. I did finish it but I was deeply disappointed by it and I've since disposed of it (and I don't do that with very many books).

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  19. Karen - Oh, dear! That's not very encouraging. ;) I'm really torn between trying again on my flight next week or just writing it off as a dud. With all the books I'd rather read, I think it will be the latter. Thanks for your opinion.

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