Review: The Shadow of The Wind

Posted in Reviews & Recommendations on October 28th, 2009 by Jeppe Grünberger

This is the first review of a book I add to this page. The idea is to have pages where I recommend books to those who may have similar taste as me. For a book to be featured here it has to have some sort of a unique quality that distinguishes it from other books in my opinion. My first review is as follows:

  • Title: The Shadow of The Wind
  • Orignal title: La Sombra del Viento
  • Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Published: 2001 by Editorial Planeta, Barcelona

The setting of The Shadow of The Wind is Barcelona, 1945, just after the second world war. The action takes place in the shadow of the Spanish civil war and, as we find out, in the shadow of many other things as well. The feel of Barcelona is that of dark, mysterious streets where the fates of people intertwine like the narrow, stony passages that hold the old quarters of the city together.

We follow Daniel, the son of an antiquarian, who discovers a book named The Shadow of The Wind in an enigmatic place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This book is written by an obscure author called Julián Carax who no one seems to know much about. When Daniel discovers that his book is not only rare but may indeed be the last of its kind – the rest have been systematically been pulled off the market and burned –  he begins an investigation into the past of Julián Carax. An investigation that will bring him into the the dark past of friends and lovers surrounding a Julián Carax whose fate seems to have been decided when he was much the same age as Daniel himself. As the story progresses the two fates of Daniel and Julian become increasingly and ominously entwined, and Daniel soon finds that the fate of Carax and his book will bring him to a past of death and tragedy threatening his own life as well. For in Daniel’s Barcelona mistrust and violence linger always, barely hidden in the shadows – and lives fade suddenly and tragically.

The Shadow of The Wind is one of the most read-worthy books I have read. Zafón somehow manages to draw from so many genres, and still keep the dramatic structure not only intact but under the control of a master. The long lost Gothic genre is somehow conjured back from the dead to play with the hard boiled detective novel amongst others and it just simply works very, very well. Only rarely will you read a story as exciting and thrilling as this while still sometimes finding yourself stopping to wonder at the beauty of its language and its characters.

Zafón manages heavy themes of civil war, loss and love beautifully in a book that can be heart-wrenching, cruel and delightfully amusing at any given time. The language is enticing without becoming overly complicated, and the chapter’s lengths fit really well with bed time reading as well. I really can’t think of any reason not to read and enjoy this book. Its the sort of novel, that if an author ever publishes something like it, he can call his professional career an accomplished success no matter what else happened in it.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón.