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The Shadow of the Wind

A book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

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A gripping Spanish thriller by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

  • Nov 11, 2009
Rating:
+4

“The Shadow of the Wind,” written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves, is a gothic mystery and “coming-of-age” novel about young Daniel Sempere set in Barcelona in 1945. It also is the name of a long forgotten novel by the mysterious Julián Carax that Daniel finds when his father takes him to the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books.” It’s a book within a book, because as Daniel’s compulsive investigation into the fate of Carax unfolds, it becomes apparent that many events in Daniel’s life parallel those of Julián’s. The convoluted story unfolds in twists and turns narrated by a large cast of characters.

 

Early in the story, the Daniel is infatuated with the coy blind beauty Clara Barceló to whom he spends many afternoons reading. He is forced to face harsh reality when he stumbles upon Clara and her lover who proceeds to beat Daniel up. Out in the street, Daniel is befriended by the amiable vagrant Fermín Romero de Torres who comes to work in the bookshop owned by Daniel’s father. Daniel and Fermín become partners in the investigation of the mystery surrounding Julián Carax, who seems to have left Barcelona for Paris many years before. Why is some sinister, badly burned and mutilated character named Laín Coubert (after a character in Carax’s novel) seeking out and destroying all copies of Carax’s books that he can find? Fermín and Daniel discover the answers to the mystery bit by bit. Much of the story goes back to four childhood friends: Julián Carax, Miquel Moliner, Javier Francisco Fumero, and Jorge Aldaya. Carax and Moliner remain steadfast friends throughout the story, but Fumero and Jorge Aldaya become enemies of Carax, seeking revenge for past events. At the center of the enmity is the doomed love affair between Carax and Jorge’s sister Penélope that occurred in 1919 and led to Carax’s departure for Paris. This love affair is paralleled by Daniel’s passion for Beatriz Aquilar, the sister of his friend Tomás. Daniel’s story ends much differently than Carax’s, and Carax ultimately plays a crucial role in the outcome.

 

One interesting thread in the story is a Montblanc Meinsterstück fountain pen that Daniel sees in a shop window early in the story. It purportedly belonged to Victor Hugo and consequently the asking price was very steep. Daniel’s father manages to buy the pen for him for his birthday. Later, we find that the pen was previously purchased by a woman named Nuria Monfort for Julián Carax in Paris. Back in Barcelona and much later in the story, Carax makes a devastating discovery about the fate of Penélope, and leaves the pen for Nuria Monfort (who worked for his publisher in Barcelona and was his lover for a brief two weeks when she visited Paris). She pawns the pen to raise money to keep herself and Miquel Moliner afloat. At the very end of the story, Daniel gives the pen back to Carax who promises to write again and does – Daniel receives a parcel with a book called “The Angel of Mist” by “Boris Laurent.” It’s inscribed with blue strokes of the adored Victor Hugo pen: “For my friend Daniel, who gave me back my voice and my pen. And for Beatriz, who gave us both back our lives.”

 

The book can be confusing due to the presence of a large cast of characters and exposition that unfolds during two different time periods (early 1920’s to 1930’s and 1940’s to 1950’s). There are many unexpected surprises, but the diligent reader is rewarded at the end with answers to everything. It’s not high literature, but it’s a tense, compelling story that will hold your attention throughout.

A gripping Spanish thriller by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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More The Shadow of the Wind reviews
review by . September 17, 2010
Dateline Barcelona 1945 shortly after WW II, location - a dingy, obscure side street north of the Mediterranean and just a block from the well known Rambla. Daniel Sempere is allowed to peek through the stacks of a very mysterious library that his father, himself an antiquarian book dealer, calls "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books". His father gives Daniel the cryptic directions,      "According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose …
review by . June 16, 2010
Shadow of the Wind, written by Ruiz Zafon is by and large the surprise book of the decade for me. I am by no means a reader, I don't even like to read (to be honest), but when I do read I really get lost in the book. Shadow of the Wind (SOTW) is a book I not only got lost in but anticipated getting lost in every time I picked it up. I loved it. I do NOT want to give away anything in SOTW but I will say that it is  must read if you like adventure and mystery (and want to pretend you speak …
review by . June 15, 2010
   I picked up Shadow of the Wind one day because it was a highlighted book on the Chicago Public Library website and it sounded promising. I knew nothing of the author Carlos Ruiz Zafon nor any of his novels, but I must confess, almost anything with Spain as the setting will always at least get a second glance from me. I had no idea I was in for such a thrilling,  heart-breaking and suspenseful ride!     The story centers around Daniel and his father …
review by . June 15, 2010
From the first few pages, I was doubtful. Was this a book to instantly grab my attention? Would I need to have the book pry ed from my hands? No.. well not at first. I think it took me 3 times to read through the first chapter, but after I did, I was along for the ride. And what a ride. Twists and turns, in this Gothic novel. A novel about a lover of books, about long lost loves, with an ending that laid to rest my fears that I would be disappointed. This novel was written at a perfect pace, starting …
review by . November 26, 2010
From the first chapter when the Cemetery of Forgotten Books was mentioned, I knew that this would be an amazing read. Everything that you could want in a novel is here in The Shadow of the Wind--mystery, romance, lost love, humor, war, and hate. It's all in this stunning book, full of eccentric, unique, and entertaining characters, along with a brooding and atmospheric setting. It's phenomenal, and completely unforgettable. You won't regret buying this book.
review by . July 06, 2010
Carlos Ruiz Zafron takes the reader through the twisted old streets of Barcelona. His captivating language shows a young boy on the journey of his life through his finding a Cemetery of Lost Books. Upon selecting a curious title, his life is transformed into a mysterious search through the most intriguing places in Spain.       Once you pick up this book, there will be no putting it down. A quick and easy read - I recommend reading it in Spanish (of Castilian) …
review by . July 07, 2010
This is a different kind of a book.  Set in Barcelona, it is the story of Daniel and his first visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  Brought there by his father - a bookseller, he is allowed to choose one book to take with him.  The book he chooses, or the book that has chosen him, is The Shadow Of The Wind.   Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a master storyteller, telling a story of books.  There is war, love, romance, mystery and magic in this tale.    Daniel …
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
I love this book! It definately held my interest through all it's twists and turns.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
A contemporary novel in the style of romantic classics. Amazing.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
I can live without it!
About the reviewer
Steve DiBartola ()
Ranked #153
I was invited to join Lunch by one of the developers, who apparently read some reviews I posted on Library Thing. My interests are books, music, and movies. I enjoy both classical and contemporary fiction, … more
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Wiki

Ruiz Zafón's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue à la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermín are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0143034901
ISBN-13: 978-0143034902
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
First to Review

"Definately a Keeper!"
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