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The Shadow of the Wind

A book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

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A post-modern Dickensian thriller!

  • Sep 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 a book, whichever 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 ... "

Having chosen an obscure novel entitled "The Shadow of the Wind" by one Julián Carfax, he subsequently makes the bizarre discovery that somebody is systematically destroying every copy of every book that Carax has ever written. And the requirement to murder someone standing in the way of this destruction doesn't seem to be holding the culprit back!

To provide any details beyond the most basic plot premise is to do Carlos Ruiz Zafón's lucid, mellifluous prose and intricate plotting, not to mention any potential reader, a serious disservice. But this much can be said:

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a superbly crafted literary historical mystery. Gothic overtones, almost ghostly atmospherics, love, lust, hate, heroism, bravery, dysfunctional family relationships, magnificent character development, positively bizarre dialogue and a labyrinthine plot combine to make this a post-modern Dickensian thriller that Charles himself would read with relish!

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a magnificent travelogue of what is arguably one of the most beautiful exciting cities in the world - the breathtaking views from the heights of Montjuic; the outlandish but breathtaking, avant garde architecture of Anton Gaudí; the kitchy, gaudy tourist filled Ramblas avenue leading north from a bustling port and the Traflgar like monument to Christopher Columbus; the churches, the crumbling palaces and secluded courtyards; the 100 year old blue tram that rumbles up Avenida del Tibidabo to a spectacular view south of the entire city and the majesty of the Mediterranean.

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, more than merely sights, sounds and smells is also a story of the cultural and social milieu of a vibrant city

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a political commentary offering a chilling portrayal of the paranoia that can overtake a frightened population in the wake of a blood-soaked revolution such as Generalissimo Franco completed after WW II.

"Nineteen forty-five, a year of ashes. Only six years had elapsed since the end of the Civil War, and although its bruises were felt at every step, almost nobody spoke about it openly."

If there is any criticism at all to be levelled at THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, it might be that, like Charles Dickens, Zafon never settled for a single word when a metaphor filled or simile laden paragraph would do. On the other hand, also like Dickens' work, if you simply sit back and lets the beauty of the prose wash over you and transport you, body and soul, to another time and place, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND will win your heart and have you seeking more of Zafon's writing post-haste.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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March 20, 2012
Nice review. As good as this book was I didn't rate it as high because of the overuse of italics, which was hard to read in my edition and the fact that I got confused who some of the characters were and had to re-read some portions. I actually went back and re-read the review I posted and from what I remember the book was a lot better than I gave it credit for.
More The Shadow of the Wind reviews
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 …
review by . November 11, 2009
A gripping Spanish thriller by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
“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 …
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
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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About this book


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