The Shadow of the Wind is a book for book lovers, but more than that it is also a book for lovers of words and mystery and atmosphere. In other words, this book is the perfect cozy-up book for cool, eerie October. While The Shadow of the Wind is a somewhat convoluted and twisty story, I’m going to try and keep the summary as brief as possible. Some books are better when you discover what they are about on your own, and this is definitely one of those!
The Shadow of the Wind begins as a father, who is a bookseller, takes his young son to a secret library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, so that he can select one treasure to take home. Daniel, chooses a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, and through his adolescences and young adulthood he becomes entranced with both the book and the author’s mysterious life. The mystery begins to thicken when Daniel begins to uncover stories/rumors of a man who is burning copies of Carax’s books. This man takes the same name as a character from The Shadow of the Wind: Lain Coubert, the devil.
Oh the things that this book contains! Mystery! Romance! Books! Creepy old houses with strange crucifixes all over the walls! Coming of Age Story! Murder! Villains! Comedic Interjections! This book was so jam packed with elements that I really believe there is a little bit of something for everyone. We read this for our September book club meeting and my 4/5 rating was probably one of the lower ranks of the group—everyone really loved this book. I, on the other hand, only mostly loved it. While there was everything I could have hoped for in this book, I often felt like Zafón was trying to do too much.
When trying to formulate my thoughts on this book, I can’t seem to pinpoint the correct word to describe the writing. Not heavyhanded or stilted; I’m not even sure the term overwriting applies. All I can think of is the term “deadwood.” During one of my first literature courses in college, my professor made one of my papers bleed with red pen—all marked with the term, “deadwood.” According to my prof, deadwood is filler material–not really relevant to the story (or topic). Yes, I obviously haven’t learned to edit any better since then. But as I was reading this book I was continually asking myself “what does this have to do with the plot.” There were so many subplots and details that I felt really lost for the first half of the novel. This book, in my eyes, could have been at least a hundred pages shorter and a few characters less. The writing is beautiful, don’t get me wrong—in fact, take a look at this:
“Without further ado I left the place, finding my route by the marks I had made on the ways in. As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn’t help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had fund a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking into an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot” (76).
And to sum up how I felt for the first half of the book:
“Then, please, sire, could you get to the frigging point? Because with all the metaphorical spin and flourish, I’m beginning to feel a fiery bowel movement at the gates” (152). hee hee :)
Deadwood aside, I really found myself hooked to this book about halfway through. By that point I was so deep into the story with twists and turns and even a few “What!!” moments that the reading became much easier (and maybe the story was just more focused at this point). I think I’m in the minority with my feelings for the writing, and despite my feelings for the writing I found this book to be incredibly engaging. Sometimes I fear that my reviews are too negative, even when my feelings for the book were not completely negative. Do I focus too much on the bad? Anyway, I heartily recommend this one, especially for this fall season. There is something so comforting about curling up with a great mystery on a cold, dreary day.
I’m sure there are more—let me know if I missed your link. When I searched for this title in Google Reader the search results were crazy. It is helpful if you put the name of the book in the title of your post! Some of you like really catchy titles for your book reviews, which is fine, but it doesn’t make searching for your reviews very easy.