The shadow of the wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Hardcover, 2004




New York : Penguin Press, 2004.


A boy named Daniel selects a novel from a library of rare books, enjoying it so much that he searches for the rest of the author's works, only to discover that someone is destroying every book the author has ever written. Barcelona, 1945-just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly. As with all astounding novels, The Shadow of the Wind sends the mind groping for comparisons- The Crimson Petal and the White? The novels of Arturo Peacute-Reverte? Of Victor Hugo? Love in the Time of Cholera ?-but in the end, as with all astounding novels, no comparison can suffice. As one leading Spanish reviewer wrote, ldquo. The originality of Ruiz Zafoacute's voice is bombproof and displays a diabolical talent. The Shadow of the Wind announces a phenomenon in Spanish literature. An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller's art.… (more)

Media reviews

It's lowdown and lazy, but here goes: ''Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges'' for a sprawling magic show, exasperatingly tricky and mostly wonderful, by the Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The three illustrious meeters must surely have been drinking and they weave about a little, but steady remarkably as the pages go by.
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Als een boekverkoper zijn tienjarige zoon meeneemt naar het paleisachtige, geheimzinnige Kerkhof der Vergeten Boeken, raakt Daniel betoverd door De schaduw van de wind. Hij neemt zich voor achter de identiteit van de schrijver Julian Carax te komen. Sterker nog: hij lijkt het leven van deze mysterieuze man te gaan leven. Tegen de achtergrond van het Barcelona van de Burgeroorlog en Franco ontrolt zich een fascinerend verhaal, of feitelijk vele verhalen over figuren die zich in de nabijheid van Carax ophielden én mensen rondom Daniel. De structuur van het verhaal is als een Russische pop, die eindeloos veel kleinere poppen in zich heeft verstopt. Carlos Ruiz Zafon (1964) heeft een fantasierijke, knappe roman geschreven vol avontuur, spanning, en liefde, die je in één adem uitleest. Zijn taalgebruik is prachtig, zijn belezenheid groot en de vertaling is vloeiend. Velen zullen van deze onderhoudende, intelligente roman genieten.
The Shadow of the Wind is a dream date for those who love books.... For fans of Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco and other writers who craft twisting and turning plots with complex characterization, The Shadow of the Wind is not to be missed.

User reviews

LibraryThing member BeckyJG
"Well, this is a story about books."

"About books?"

"About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind."

These words appear just under halfway through The Shadow of the Wind, and are spoken by Daniel Sempere, its narrator. 178 pages earlier, as the story opens, Daniel is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Part of this rite of passage is that Daniel must select a book--or, to be more accurate, he must allow a book to select him. With this selection comes the responsibility to keep the book alive, to make sure that it is not forgotten. The book he selects is The Shadow of the Wind, by the mysterious Julian Carax. Daniel reads the novel in one delerious, heated night, and spends the next decade pursuing its author and his story.

But no synopsis could do justice to this rich, gorgeous feast of a novel. Set in post-Civil War Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind is full of Gothic settings, Victorian characters, Magical Realist flourishes. There are crumbling mansions and equally crumbling aristocratic families, brutal fascist police officers and the political refugees they pursue, girls as beautiful as angels and men so horribly deformed that no one can look them in the face. But, more than anything, there are words.

Ruiz Zafon has an ease with language that most can only envy. Open the book to any page and you will find gorgeous turns of phrase which in lesser hands (and with a lesser translator, one must imagine) would be merely trite and over-written.

Everything good that you've heard about The Shadow of the Wind is true...anything negative must have been said by someone without a touch of whimsy anywhere in his life.
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LibraryThing member chuchu
I rarely leave a book unfinished. I find that once I start a book, whether it takes days, months, sometimes years, I'm compelled to read the book to completion. Today I decided that I will not be finishing The Shadow of the Wind. This stuff is pure drivel. With a plot that involves a coming of-age story, a secret library, doomed books and romances...I didn't think I'd have to strong-arm myself to turn the page for more than 200 pages.

The language flowery and verbose is incredibly distracting to anything that's going on in the plot. The plot while interesting at first, quickly starts to feel like a lead weight that the author uses to blugeon his readers with. Read The Ghost Writer by John Harwood, if you are in the mood for secrets, betrayal, books, and intrigue.

I honestly can't find anything positive to say about this book, which is rare. But it does solidify my suspicion that sometimes critics don't read every book to completion, especially if the plot sounds enticing and you can use the names Borges, Dickens, Eco, and Marquez in one breath to describe it. If any of the critics that reviewed this book so enthusiasically actually bothered to finish it, then I'd be highly suspicious of their critical reading skills. (One caveat is that my preference is not for classics, which this book reminds me of. But I find many classics to be nuanced while this book is just a shallow imitation with all the bad qualities such as flowery prose).
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LibraryThing member Lman
It is difficult to explain the enticement - the bond – for a book lover, when reading a book like The Shadow of the Wind: only that it articulates an exact love of books, and a profound connection to the words within. And as such, it resonates fully with any serious reader, for not only does it hold a premise that appeals to the heart of a book aficionado, but it offers such an abundance of beautifully-crafted images, that it permeates the soul of the devotee.

In a broad, all-encompassing tale of life in Barcelona more than half a century ago, in a time of great political upheaval and social distress, it is the story of Daniel Sempere; whose mother died from cholera when he was six, and whose father, the owner of a book store of rare treasures and second-hand collectibles, valiantly strives to nurture his child in a difficult world. At the age of ten, Daniel – in an attempt to assuage his still-lingering grief – is brought one morning, by his father, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books; to follow a long-standing tradition of adopting a book and therefore “keeping it alive, for life.” The book he chooses is The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, a little-known and scarcely-published author; but whose book affects Daniel to such a degree that he is driven to find his other writings. And here lies the rub: for someone is steadily and methodically, and by any means, destroying every book this author has ever written; an ominous character even approaching Daniel upfront to buy his copy, otherwise threatening dire consequences. Yet he will not part with the work he feels has chosen him, instead hiding it again in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

Thus Daniel’s adventure begins: as he searches for the answers to his beloved book’s mystery, and that of its author, he learns, simultaneously, over the next ten years, the answers to many of life’s complexities. And it is within this potent mix that the truth is realised, as the world of Daniel, and his friends, coalesces around this book, and the sordid past inherent in its creation.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón constructs, within this tale, a cacophony of irrepressible characters, full of personality and wit, and incredible strength-of-mind and ability to overcome difficult situations; though suffering daily, none are willing to give up or give in. Foremost of these is Fermín Romero de Torres, an incorrigible romantic with a pearl of wisdom, and a very true depth of understanding, for nearly every instance of life; and who is pivotal in unravelling the story behind Julián Carax, and in Daniel’s maturity through his painful adolescent years. Almost, it seems, Fermín is the author’s instrument in disclosing the political and social injustices during, and after, the Spanish civil-war, but tempering the darkness with an exuberance and optimism that is contagious, and life-affirming, despite the conditions of the times. His acumen, in many cases, is worthy reading alone!

The Shadow of the Wind is a concoction of many things: part mystery, part fantasy, part history; it mingles strong desires and passions of life alongside basic bodily functions with such skill, and with such humour, pathos and understanding, that is riveting. Essentially though, to me, it pays homage to the written word, and the power inherent in the pages of a book. And to a reverence for books: where “in truth books have no owners. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.” And in choosing a book "...we adopt it, making sure it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive” even as all else “disappears in the shadow of the wind.” May I find many friends as remarkable, and impressive, as this one, for the rest of my reading life.
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LibraryThing member nog
Okay, first off, comparisons with Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges are absurd, as anyone who has read several books by those authors would tell you. Those guys write literature, Zafon writes pulp. Now, I don't have any axe to grind about pulp, but this book showcases some absolutely egregious examples of how not to write. My first moment of painful wincing came on page 61: "The same hands that had read my face six years earlier in the gloom of the Ateneo now clutched the maestro's sweat-glazed buttocks, the nails digging into them, as they guided him toward her with desperate, animal desire." We all remember reading similar prose from Eco, don't we? Or was that Borges, in his soft-core porn phase?

We're treated to Zafon's relentless metaphor/simile attack throughout the book -- and these are metaphors that would give the instructors at the Iowa Writers' Workshop reason to scold, and scold harshly, once they were through gagging. "I could distinguish the shape of the blue tram, moving away through folds of violet mist." "...conjuring up a halo of amber light that seemed to float in the air like a cobweb trapped between mantles of impenetrable darkness." "...and revealed the dancing shapes of the walls that wept with tears of dampness, the fallen ceilings and dilapidated doors." Those can all be found on one page: 299.

Sometimes this lurid prose fails to make any sort of sense: "The stone, dark and slimy with rain, shone like the skeleton of a huge reptile." (page 415) Richard Eder of the New York Times is the one who praised this book and made the comparisons with Eco, Borges, and Garcia-Marquez. He should know better.

Could the joke be on us? That's what Jennie Yabroff muses about in her review in San Francisco Chronicle. A satire on potboilers? But she has to conclude that Zafon wants us to take him seriously. She calls it a tiring, meandering tale, and I wholeheartedly agree. It consists mostly of one colorful character after another relating their piece of the story, usually in a lengthy remembrance with plenty of non-essential subplots thrown in that puts a halt to any shred of momentum that might build. It just wears the reader out.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
In this wonderful gothic novel, set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, our young narrator Daniel is about to go through a passage of rites. His father, an antique book dealer, is leading the boy to the mysterious and secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There, he instructs his son to choose only one book, which Daniel will be responsible for the rest of his life. He finds a small book called The Shadow of the Wind by an obscure writer, Julián Carax. Daniel becomes completely engrossed in the story, but when he attempts to find other books by the author, he discovers that a sinister man, posing as one of the characters from the book, is seeking out and burning every copy of every book by Carax he can get his hands on. Our young hero then goes on the trail of the writer, who has been shot dead long ago, as he seeks answers to this strange mystery.

Along the way, as Daniel encounters numerous fascinating characters, we are taken back to Julián Carax's youth when, as a poor hatmaker's son, he was taken under the wing of a powerful businessman, and fell in love with at first sight with the man's daughter on his first visit to his sponsor's haunted mansion, thus setting in motion the train of events which Daniel uncovers, as he finds one clue after another. A tale of love, loss and obsession, about the bonds of friendship and the quest for revenge, truth and redemption, this is a richly told, multilayered story which satisfies at every page.

Please note the only reason I didn't give this book five stars is that I found the English translation wanting, though this is no fault of the translator; I look forward to reading the story again in the French translation, which will presumably better express the latin passion and immediacy of the original Spanish text. Regardless, the story itself transcends language, and I can't recommend this novel strongly enough.
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LibraryThing member msbaba
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Záfon is an enchanting work of escapist literature. It is a dark atmospheric novel with unrestrained nineteenth-century literary overtones—a luxuriously layered tale of mystery, intrigue, obsession, seduction, passion, devotion, revenge, loyalty, madness, and everlasting love. Most importantly, it is a book about books—about the power of books to alter lives. Most book lovers will fall under its spell within a few brief pages.

The book opens with the young narrator’s father taking him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The father explains to the boy that visitors are allowed to choose a book only if they pledge to keep it alive. Ten-year-old Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. He falls in love with the book and becomes obsessed with finding out as much as he can about its enigmatic author. So our book becomes a mysterious quest to find the truth about Carax—how The Shadow of the Wind came into existence, and ultimately made its way into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It is also a captivating coming-of-age tale.

At one point in the novel the main character Daniel, tries to explain to his girlfriend Beatriz his obsession with Carax. He tells her that his obsession is all “about accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who got out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It’s a story of love, of hatred and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.” Beatriz teases Daniel, saying that he talks like “a jacket blurb of a Victorian novel.” And how right she is!

This work does read like a Victorian novel, yet it is set in the period just after the Spanish Civil War. The book delivers a maze of stories within stories most with mysteries behind every revelation. The reader will be reminded of the styles of many long-gone literary giants. But don’t be lulled into expecting too much on account of the novel's florid literary style—if you do you may be disappointed and miss the fun! This is a work of contemporary fiction, not a literary masterpiece. Also, it is not a realistic drama, but melodrama. To enjoy it, you’ll need to turn off your reality sensors and step into a world where good and evil are clear, and characters are larger than life. I am not suggesting that there is fantasy, or surrealism here, merely the exaggerated perceptions of a young man who has not yet reached maturity, a boy who has spent his life reading perhaps a little too much fiction. In this fashion, Daniel’ naïve view of life reminds me of the young Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

There is much in Záfon’s prose that delights; there is also much that I found poorly executed and over-the-top—but on the whole, the novel is far better than most popular fiction. There is plenty to enjoy in this almost-500-page novel…but if you prefer, listen to the sumptuous unabridged audio version (16 CDs, 19 hours) where the reading is frequently accompanied by original music composed by the author to enhance the mood and adds to the melodrama. The reader, Jonathan Davis, is outstanding. Listening to this novel accentuates its sensory experience!

Although Záfon was born in Barcelona, he has spend almost the last two decades living in Los Angeles, making a living as a television screenwriter. This is his debut novel. Originally written in Spanish and published in Spain, the book was translated into English by the talented Lucia Graves, daughter of the famous British literary giant, Robert Graves. Záfon admits that he has a lifelong fascination for 19th-century English literature. But his first love is great storytelling, wherever he finds it—in books, television, or movies. He has spent a great deal of time painstakingly deconstructing the world’s best storytellers to discover their secrets.

This novel has become an international bestseller because the author learned his lessons well and does seem to possess some magical inside track to the art of great storytelling. With time, he should get even better. I recommend this book highly and look forward to the author’s next novel.
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LibraryThing member Widsith
Dire. The writing is along Dan Brown lines, with flowery metaphors mixed until they become meaningless. From page 1: "My father sighed, hiding behind the sad smile that followed him like a shadow all through his life." How can he be hiding behind it if it's following him? Then on the next page someone is described as having "vulturine features", but in the following sentence he has an "aquiline gaze". This sloppiness is everywhere.

The whole thing feels like it desperately wants be seen as some kind of profound parable, but the only result is that the characters are just implausible symbols. They are too bland even to hate – unlike the book itself, which I loathed.
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LibraryThing member readingwithtea
Having seen this available for £1 at a Lancaster book stall, I had to pick it up after everything that I’ve heard about it over the years.

The writing itself is excellent – “flashing a mysterious smile probably borrowed from the pages of one of his worn Alexandre Dumas romances” is one of my favourite phrases of the book. Zafón distinguishes well between the voices of different characters (which, given the number of flashbacks and retellings of events by other characters, is pretty important) and while the characters are all very individual, none of them is ridiculous.

Similarly, I loved the fact that I could follow the places in the book – I’ve been to Barcelona (only once, and only for a week), but fortunately the book was mostly set in the centre of town and out towards the area where I stayed when I was there, so I recognised many of the place names and the character of the city, which Zafón represents very well.

I struggled with the plot – the sheer number of childhood romances and implausible pregnancies bugged me, as did the jumpy timeline. The book is full of adventure and intrigue and all those wonderful plot ingredients, which I can see appealing to both male and female readers of all ages. I can certainly understand why this is a favourite with readers the world over, and I enjoyed the book, but it’s not right up there in the “I’m going to bully everyone I know into reading this” category.
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LibraryThing member rebachin
I'm finishing up The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron as I type this, unsure of how exactly to respond, because I am unsure of how it will end! It is definitely a climatic ending!!

About an hour back in the book, the question** occured to me; Is this completely devoted, self-sacrificing exhibit of love actually real, or does it only exist in the make-believe? Could you starve yourself of all life and passion save that of the one person to whom your heart is devoted to.

**I have begun to believe that when a book is good, it leaves me with a thoughtful, insightful, contemplative question or conviction.

Man! I'll tell you - Don't think you have the book figured out until you have reached the last page, I don't care how good you think you are. I kept thinking I could see the bends and twists in the plot ahead of time, but I don't think I got any of them right.

And such a variety of characters - noble & self-sacrificing, greedy, naive, bitter & jealous, twisted & sadistic... you see it all, and there is a little bit of everything in the plot - love, romance, mystery, frustration, anger... passion, heartache, emotion, uncertainty, and intrigue.

I recommend this book without hesitation.

What a perfect, and beautiful circle of a story.
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LibraryThing member writestuff
This book has sat on my "to-be-read" shelf for a long time - and after reading it I wonder how I could have let it linger so long unread. The Shadow of the Wind is a rich tapestry of writing - a Gothic tale of love and mystery, of betrayal and suspense. Zafon's sense of place never wavers. The reader is pulled into the setting and enveloped in the dark, crumbling mansions and the candlelit hallways of post-war Barcelona.

Zafon captures the reader quickly. When Daniel, a ten year old boy, is brought to a mysterious place called The Cemetery of Books, his father swears him to secrecy and then explains: "According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever one he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive. It's a very important promise. For life," explained my father. "Today it's your turn."

Daniel chooses a book - or perhaps the book chooses him. It is a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, written by Julian Carax and it entrances the boy and takes him on a convoluted journey which is swathed in mystery. Who is the man with no face who has set out to destroy every book every written by Julian Carax? What became of the author?

Zafon's novel is filled with memorable characters - my favorite being Fermin Romero de Torres, a homeless man saved from the gutter by Daniel and his father and who comes with a dark and cryptic history of his own. Fermin's wonderful philosophy of life, filled with bawdy humor made me laugh out loud at times.

The novel's plot is twisting - weaving back in time and making unexpected turns. No one is who they seem to be. Characters in Daniel's found novel become intertwined with people he knows or has known. Zafon keeps the reader guessing with his compelling and dramatic story filled with betrayal, murder, missing people and romance.

The Shadow of the Wind is a giant of a book and a must read for bibliophiles and those who love epics with a Gothic flavor.

Highly Recommended.
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LibraryThing member karieh
It seems as if nearly every quote on this book references Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’ve only read One Hundred Years of Solitude but I agree…this book does have distinct similarities. The lushness of the prose, the larger than life characters, the background sense of a fairy tale that makes the reader sure that at some point s/he read the words “Once Upon a Time”…

But I detected the whiff of musty rotting lace even stronger than that. Dickens’s Great Expectations seemed to me a much closer relative to “The Shadow of the Wind”. The sense of the past being relived in the future, the idea that the young characters whose lives are ostensibly the focus of the book being only the newer versions of those who have gone before them…not to mention the constant theme of forbidden love.

This book in all senses is a book about time gone by. It is about passions that are larger than life, all consuming hatred, soul destroying despair. Nothing is small; no character is simply a bystander, no event without meaning. The writing drips with color without being too flowery, the words evoke one’s senses while still allowing the reader to bring his/her own imagination to the table. One feels as if this is a story that has always existed, has always been played out…I could almost feel the dust on the book jacket of my brand new copy of this novel.

I appreciate, too, the underlying theme of the love of books, of words. When one encounters “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, I felt my hands itching to go there, to see the shelves and shelves of treasures. Books and the power of their words come up again and again, which is an idea I can certainly appreciate.

“Once, in my father’s bookstore, 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.”

While being an engrossing story that kept me turning the pages more than taking notes, the story, whose main timeline takes place in Barcelona in 1955, offers a few very prescient views of the future:

“Television, my dear Daniel, is the Antichrist, and I can assure you that after only three or four generations, people will no longer even know how to fart on their own and humans will return to living in caves, to medieval savagery, and to the general state of imbecility that slugs overcame back in the Pleistocene era. Our world will not die as a result of the bomb, as the papers say, it will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything, and a lousy joke at that.”

(As a side note, the author does pull one of those plot tricks that I am VERY dubious about. One of those, “In seven days time, SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT WILL HAPPEN” warnings. As an avid reader of Stephen King, I have become very wary of those dire predictions…and I still haven’t made up my mind whether they improve or harm the flow of the story, though I am leaning towards harm.)

The sense of history repeating itself comes up not only in the lives of the characters but in references to the world in general. “Nothing feeds forgetfulness better than war, Daniel. We all keep quiet and the try and convince us that what we’ve seen, what we’ve done, what we’ve learned about ourselves and about others, is an illusion, a passing nightmare. Wars have no memory, and nobody has the courage to understand them until there are no voices left to tell what happened, until the moment comes when we no longer recognize them and they return, with another face and another name, to devour what they left behind.”

“The Shadow of the Wind” was a wonderful book to curl up with these past few days. I liked getting to enjoy damsels in distress, mysterious figures in the shadows, deathbed confessions, duels at dawn, the constant struggle of love trying to overcome hate…and an actual villain with no redeeming qualities. So often the books that I read, because they are generally based in reality, examine all of the shades of grey that make up human beings. I’d forgotten what an escape it is to very easily identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with a scene like this that I could enjoy instead of rolling my eyes, “When I peered into the corridor, I could already hear the footsteps below, near the staircase. I recognized the spidery shadow on the walls, the black raincoat, the hat pulled down like a hood, and the gun in his hand shining like a scythe. Fumero. He had always reminded me of someone, or something, but until then I hadn’t understood what.”

You can just smell the musty odors, see the dripping candle wax, feel the mysterious breeze go past your face, can’t you?

This book gives one the sense of a guilty pleasure without giving any reason to feel guilty. It is a wonderful story, one that should be dusted off time and time again.
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LibraryThing member funkendub
The Shadow of the Wind is a dream date for those who love books. It starts, in 1945, with the introduction of the young narrator, Daniel, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel’s father, a dealer of used and rare books in Barcelona, tells the young boy, “When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here.” In the Cemetery, “books that are lost in time, live forever…. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.” Mourning the loss of his mother, Daniel befriends a book he finds there, The Shadow of the Wind, written by a certain Julián Carax.

Entranced by the novel, young Daniel sets out to discover who this Carax was, and what else he wrote. Daniel’s father, the book dealer, has never heard of Carax. Together they consult other dealers. One offers Daniel a considerable sum of money for his copy of The Shadow of the Wind—but won’t say why he prizes it so highly. Daniel, though, refuses to sell the book.

Years go by. Daniel hears a story about Carax and his books. Someone is going from town to town, shop to shop, seeking out the works of Julián Carax—and burning them. But who would do such a thing—and why? As Daniel matures, so does the mystery.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel is a love story of several layers of significance. There’s the adolescent Daniel, coming of age in Franco’s Spain, and doing what young boys do: listlessly lusting after young women. Daniel’s relationships, first with the blind girl, Clara, and later with his best friend’s sister, Bea, are also bonds of literary friendship: books, like beds, allow lovers to share sheets. As Daniel tells Bea one evening over a couple of coffees:

…this is a story about books.”
“About books?”
“About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.”

But is the burner of Carax’s novels really Carax? As Daniel grows—both in life and into the investigation of his beloved The Shadow of the Wind—he discovers that Carax died years ago. It appears that Carax died, as Daniel has felt he surely would, of a broken heart. And yet, what if…?

“And yet, what if…?” is, of course, precisely what propels a reader through a great novel like Zafón’s. The wind of speculation keeps blowing shadows of mystery down the side streets, pulling us on into the labyrinth in pursuit of the story of the novel within the novel. Zafón is a great-hearted writer, keenly aware that books are bits of soul-stuff and just as prone to the vicissitudes of time and place as are their human authors and readers. Zafón sketches character and context beautifully, working in the political reality of Franco’s dictatorship with candor and humor, but without ever making a spectacle of life in a totalitarian regime. A bestseller in Spain, The Shadow of the Wind is craftily translated by the daughter of Robert Graves, Lucia Graves. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been very well received in the U.S., where the thriller genre has been stupefied by the likes of ignoramus Michael Crichton. The Shadow of the Wind harks back to an era when characters changed—not by growing an extra arm, but changed psychologically, seeing the world as the dangerous and potentially redemptive place it is. For fans of Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco and other writers who craft twisting and turning plots with complex characterization, The Shadow of the Wind is not to be missed.

Originally published in Curled Up with a Good Book
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
In 1945 Barcelona, Daniel Sempere, a ten-year-old boy, is taken by his bookseller father to "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books," told never to tell anyone about it, and to choose a book off its shelves to which he'll always be the guardian. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. He's entranced by the novel and tries to find other books by the author, but finds out few ever were printed and sold, and a mysterious figure calling himself after one of Carax's characters is burning every copy of the books he can find.

I loved the concept of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books when I first encountered it, and the opening chapter that bore it's name, but among the disappointments of the novel is I felt it went no where. Many people adore this book; a close friend whose tastes I trust, if not always mirror, told me she hated it, and that among those reasons is how Daniel betrays that secret. Well before that he betrayed his guardianship by at one point giving the book away to a woman he has a crush on. But what I couldn't forgive was how the whole concept was developed, or not developed. Who chooses the books? Why aren't you supposed to tell anyone? To whom and for what purpose is the secret revealed? But you know when I really wanted to throw this book across the room? When Daniel takes someone back to that "Cemetery" of Forgotten books, he tells her to choose one, just as his father told him to choose one. And what does she choose? Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles! In what alternate universe is that a forgotten book? In that one choice, Zafon transformed a magical mystical place into... a used bookstore.

A petty point, I know, but it's hardly the only hole or improbability in the book. I've seen reviewers defend those lapses as "magical realism." I see nothing magical or realistic in this convoluted tale. I haven't read Marquez or Borges, whom I've seen Zafon compared to, but I have read Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Joanne Harris, Toni Morrison, and Alice Hoffman, and when they insert magic into their narratives, you know it--it's not an excuse for a muddled or implausible plot.

I've also read the events are meant to be a tribute to the Gothic tradition. Stephen King calls the book "full of cheesy splendor." Well, I'm all for that kind of cheese. I found Matthew Lewis' The Monk and Wilkie Collins The Woman in White and Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale and even some novels of Stephen King great fun, but this novel fell flat to me.

I also wasn't wild about the style. Here's a typical sentence from a random page: The steely sun snatched copper reflections from the roofs and belfries of the Gothic quarter. It's the kind of prose some might see as poetic and lyrical, and others as florid and purple. I'm on the purple side of the fence, and I don't think you can blame the author's pile-on of adjectives on the translation. Or the chunks of narrative in italics--an effect by itself I find cheesy and annoying. Or the soft porn sex scene early on.

I'm afraid when it comes to this one, I'm in the decided minority of detractors--even if I at least I can console myself I'm in good company with my friend.
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LibraryThing member SharronA
A real challenge to read -- hard to maintain interest when there's only 10 pages of plot in every 100 pages of text. It would have made a terrific short story! There was little character development and virtually no suspense, with the "surprise" ending hinted at so broadly throughout the book. The villain was perhaps the best part, but not enough to sustain 486 rambling pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member mrtall
The Shadow of the Wind is a middlebrow romance/potboiler that has benefited from a sheen of association with superior novels by much better writers.

The best summation of the book’s charms, such as they are, comes from the very first blurb on the back of my copy. It’s from Stephen King, who calls this lengthy tome (a subject on which King is undoubtedly expert) ‘a novel full of cheesy splendor’. Just so.

For this is a supremely cheesy story, blending over-the-top Gothic settings and atmosphere with Boys’ Own characterizations with Harlequinesque romance and erotic flashes. What mystifies me is the comparisons others (e.g. The New York Times Book Review) have made between this book and far superior works such as Umberto Eco’s. Yes, I suppose there is a big ol’ dark musty library in this novel, so it must be just like The Name of the Rose . . . well, perhaps not.

In short, The Shadow of the Wind follows the adventures of Daniel, a young boy in mid-20th century Barcelona. He grows up in a bookstore, and his equally bookish father introduces him to a mysterious library from which he’s allowed to choose one volume; it turns out to be an almost magical novel whose backstory Daniel traces out through the remainder of the plot.

And as we work through nearly 500 pages of florid descriptions punctuated by 'blinding' (but utterly unsurprising) revelations, epic are the adventures of the courageous men and ravishing women; pure and holy are their loves; smoldering are their passions; dark is the doom that hangs over them . . . oh man, I’ve had enough of this. Let’s just say that Ruiz Zafon overwrites shamelessly, then subjects his readers to a lengthy and startlingly prosaic dénouement that undermines whatever sense of mystery and dread he manages to build up in the book’s first three-quarters.

After finally finishing The Shadow of the Wind, I felt an immediate need to cleanse my reading palate with something cool, fresh and bracing. It’s time for some Raymond Chandler.
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LibraryThing member LARA335
I expected to love this novel: set in the past,a mystery about books, a doomed love affair, with gothic undertones... But by page 230 I was so ungripped I told myself I could abandon it on a train. But I don't do that sort of thing, so slogged on.

I felt it was less a mystery, more that most of the characters were in dire need of psychiatric counselling. I think I was so disengaged because the novel was pushed forward by introduction of a new character time and again who related their story. And books that generally grab me are ones that 'show, don't tell'.

Can't for the life of me understand why this was a best-seller.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
Oh, the love. It’s a big sprawling cheesy Dickensian melodrama about reading and falling in love with a big sprawling cheesy Dickensian melodrama. The soap opera denouements are seen coming miles away, and I think that’s intended, and you tear through the chapters because you want to get to them. The premise alone - there's a building called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where if you are permitted in you must choose one book and then be that book’s guardian and preserver for the rest of your life, and the devil figure goes around burning books - is enough for me, but it’s also wonderfully written.… (more)
LibraryThing member eggsnhm
I just don't understand all the hoopla. I was hard pressed to read more than a hundred pages before I gave up and took my life back. I found this novel utterly disengaging.
LibraryThing member bethie-paige
A book about books. Absolute perfection. :)

I fell in love after 10 pages. His writing style is gorgeous and captivating. I felt myself get lost inside his world of words.
His storytelling was incredible. I loved the way he would intertwine all these people's stories to make one amazing journey.
I felt so connected to Daniel and his search to solve the mystery of Julian Carax. I loved the connection with Victor Hugo's pen. That was so ingenious.
His story writing is just so amazing. I didn't want it to end. I'm so glad I decided to pick this book up. I want to read more of his books.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
A memorable book. Young Daniel is taken by his father, a bookseller, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he falls in love with a novel by Julian Carax entitled The Shadow of the Wind. He discovers he is in possession of the last copy of this work. Someone has been destroying the author's works. He becomes obsessed with finding out more about the author. Much of the action takes place in the days after the Spanish Civil War. There are a lot of memorable characters. Although the book is nearly 500 pages long, the constant action keeps one interested in the plot. I found myself wanting to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.… (more)
LibraryThing member fig2
This is an exciting mystery centered around a "forgotten" book. There's someone evil gathering all known copies, burning them, and burning away all traces of the author. The evil person calls himself by the name the book gives for the devil. Not one, but TWO surprise revelations make this a great, fast-paced, fun read.
LibraryThing member comixminx
Very absorbing - I could hardly look up from it while reading, and it was dense enough that I didn't race through it as I often do with things.

I'd hoped from the blurb that it might feel a bit like a long Borges work, what with the secret library. It wasn't really like that - I haven't got a good handy author comparison, but it was much more about the twists and turns of the plot and the history and the atmosphere - the atmosphere of Barcelona specifically and of post-Civil War Spain generally.

The only quibble I'd have is that this author doesn't do particularly well by his female characters - the love interest is not very fully delineated and although the "good end happily, the bad unhappily - that is what fiction means" that is noticeably less true for the women in the story.
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LibraryThing member DevourerOfBooks
“Shadow of the Wind” is a gothic, bookish thriller. When Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books, he discovers a book called “Shadow of the Wind” by Julian Carax and, with it, a mystery. There is someone hunting down and burning all of Carax’s books. Daniel has what is probably the last copy of “Shadow of the Wind” in existence. Even more perplexing, the man who seems to be burning the books calls himself Lain Coubert, which is the name of one of the characters in “Shadow of the Wind.” In “Shadow of the Wind,” Coubert is the name of the Devil. Who is Coubert, really? What happened to Carax? How does the sadistic Inspector Fumero fit into all of this?

“Shadow of the Wind” was a really fantastic book. The plot was definitely complicated and twisting, but it worked. These are my favorite sorts of mysteries, rambling gothic plots, somewhat similar to “The Thirteenth Tale” in feel, though not in detail. One thing that “Shadow of the Wind” and “The Thirteenth Tale” do have in common, though, is the underlying love of books. This is a book-lover’s mystery, and this book lover loved it.
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LibraryThing member gbill
A fun, engaging read with a little bit of gothic drama, a coming-of-age romance, and a mystery to solve: just who is this Julian Carax, what happened to him, and why is some mysterious character trying to burn all his novels? The writing is solid and I considered giving it 4 stars, but some of the elements of the ending fell short for me. I may be too harsh in rounding it down.

On accepting others:
“Once she told me she was sorry she’d been a disappointment to me. I asked her where she’d got that ridiculous idea. ‘From your eyes, Father, from your eyes,’ she said. Not once did it occur to me that perhaps I’d been an even greater disappointment to her. Sometimes we think people are like lottery tickets, that they’re there to make our most absurd dreams come true.”

On books:
“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 palace 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.”

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

On the first time; loved this one:
“The wisest man I ever knew, Fermin Romero de Torres, had told me that there is no experience in life comparable to the first time a man undresses a woman. For all his wisdom, though he had not lied to me, he hadn’t told me the truth either. He hadn’t told me anything about that strange trembling of the hands that turned every button, every zip, into a superhuman challenge. Nor had he told me about that bewitchment of pale, tremulous skin, that first brush of the lips, or about the mirage that seemed to shimmer in every pore of the skin. He didn’t tell me any of that because he knew that the miracle happened only once and, when it did, it spoke in a language of secrets that, were they disclosed, would vanish again forever. A thousand times I’ve wanted to recover that first afternoon with Bea in the rambling house of Avenida del Tibidabo, when the sound of the rain washed the whole world away with it. A thousand times I’ve wished to return and lose myself in a memory from which I can rescue only one image stolen from the heat of the flames: Bea, naked and glistening with rain, lying by the fire, with open eyes that have followed me since that day. I leaned over her and passed the tips of my fingers over her belly. Bea lowered her eyelids and smiled, confident and strong.
‘Do what you like to me,’ she whispered.”

On old age:
“I looked at the group of human remains that languished in the corner and smiled at them. It occurred to me that their very presence was testimony to the moral emptiness of the universe and the mechanical brutality with which it destroys the parts it no longer needs.”

“I found my father asleep in his dining-room armchair, with a blanket over his legs and his favorite book open in his hands – a copy of Voltaire’s Candide, which he reread a couple of times a year, the only times I heard him laugh heartily. I observed him: his hair was gray, thinning, and the skin on his face had begun to sag around his cheekbones. I looked at that man whom I had once imagined almost invincible; he now seemed fragile, defeated without knowing it. Perhaps we were both defeated. I leaned over to cover him with the blanket he had been promising to give away to charity for years, and I kissed his forehead, as if by doing so I could protect him from the invisible threads that kept him away from me, from that tiny apartment, and from my memories, as if I believed that with that kiss I could deceive time and convince it to pass us by, to return some other day, some other life.”

On telling things to strangers:
“’…sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?’
I shrugged. ‘Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.’”

Lastly, these made me smile:
“At seven on the dot, dressed in my Sunday best and smelling strongly of the Varon Dandy eau de cologne I had borrowed from my father, I turned up at the house of Gustavo Barcelo ready to make my debut as personal reader and living-room pest. … A uniformed maid, wearing a white cap and the expressionless look of a soldier, opened the door for me with theatrical servility.”

“…as far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t give a fly’s turd for the respect of this choir of simians we call humanity…”

“A lineup of ladies with their virtue for rent and a lot of mileage on the clock greeted us with smiles that would only have excited a student of dentistry.”
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LibraryThing member cestovatela
When Daniel turns 10 years old, he is taken to Cemetary of Forgotten books and allowed to select just one volume. The one he chooses, The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, propels him into the mystery of the author's tragic life. It's a great premise, but I ultimately didn't enjoy the book even after reading many positive reviews. The relentlessly gothic plot feels out of place in the relatively modern setting of 1950s Spain. Although a prominent character warns that no one is completely evil, the book presents two cartoonish villains who speak in cliches and wooden dialogue. Many of the characters' lives have been ruined by unsuccessful love affairs, but it seems that each of them could remedy their problems if only they had a normal person's sense of perspective. As young Daniel's investigations reach their peak, he leaves a trail of bodies and imperiled friends behind him, but it's hard to say why this mystery is worth solving at such a cost. In the end, the sensational plot doesn't add up to much. The characters either don't develop or develop only in predictable ways and it doesn't seem that any of them learned life lessons worth knowing from the mystery they devoted years to solving. Zafon does create one or two interesting characters and he has a flair for descriptive writing, but it wasn't enough to overcome the flaws of this book. Two stars.… (more)

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