The Shadow of the Wind by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon had me hooked from the very first sentence. Listen to this. “I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”
See what I mean? I really, really want to go to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books too, and since I know I can’t, (because it doesn’t exist, except in the pages of this book), I had to keep reading.
The Shadow of the Wind was written in Spanish, and translated into English by Lucia Graves. The language and story was so beautiful that I wish I read Spanish to be able to read the story as it was intended.
The story is set in Barcelona in 1945, when the behaviour of those in authority was very dangerous for other residents of the city. The main character, Daniel was 14 when his father, who owns a second-hand bookshop, took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to choose a book of his own, to learn and care for and protect. Daniel chose a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.
Daniel loved the story and over the next few years tried to find more books by Julian Carax, only to find that someone had been destroying every copy of every book written by Carax, which also put Daniel’s copy of The Shadow of the Wind in danger. Owning the book also became dangerous for Daniel, particularly when he began trying to find Carax.
The story is a mystery, with mysteries inside mysteries, inside mysteries. Every character in the novel has a story, every story has an intriguing detour and each word has enticing descriptions to accompany it. The language is glorious, full and descriptive and wonderful.
Old crones in black rags, priests, loving mothers and homeless men, young men and women in love, thuggish policemen, poor writers and rich businessmen, all of these characters have a story of their own within the story, which somehow come together to make a whole story. The story got complicated at times, but always unravelled itself.
The following wisdoms were spoken by my favourite character in the novel, a fast-talking, fool-hardy, fellow called Fermin. Each time he spoke, Fermin left me with something to think about.
“Few things are more deceptive than memories.”
“People who have no life always have to stick their noses in the life of others.”
“What destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”
“Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.”
“It’s a mathematical certainty.”
I’m using examples from The Shadow of the Wind to try and sell this book to others, because I feel as if my own words are falling short of expressing just how pleasurable this was to read. I truly can not get my hands on more stories by Carlos Ruiz Zafon quickly enough. Happily, the last chapter of The Shadow of the Wind hints at another story by the mysterious Julian Carax, and after checking it out on Google, I can see there another two books to come in this series. Hurra!