May 17, 2009

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I'm still coming down from the emotional roller coaster ride of this book. It made me alternate between laughing and crying, then I was plunged into feelings of dread and doom as I watched/read scenes that reminded me of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

Then the novel, for me, descended into horror, which the tidy ending doesn't much dispel.

I think the author may have intended to evoke these feelings, his characters reflecting a side of Barcelona and Spain during and after the Civil War, and during the repressive Franco dictatorship. I can't decide if it's a four or a five star read. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, despite or because of the feeling of awesome dread that the book left me with.

This excerpt, central to the plot, can probably give a sense of the atmosphere and mood in the novel that precipitates the catastrophic events.
"Sophie had only to exchange one look with Don Ricardo Aldaya to know she was doomed. Aldaya had wolfish eyes, hungry and sharp, the eyes of a man who knew where and when to strike. He kissed her hand slowly, caressing her knuckles with his lips. Just as the hatter exuded kindness and warmth, Don Ricardo radiated cruelty and power." p. 380.
Book lovers will like the basic story, of a boy who discovers a fascinating book and sets out to find out about the author Julian Carax and the reason Carax's books are being systematically sought out and destroyed. What he finds are the stories of a group of boys who attended the same elite Catholic school years before, how the boys' lives intertwined and even collided over the years, and the mystery and tragedy that resulted.

I found these stories powerful and intriguing, the writing and characterizations excellent. I read all 487 pages in three days! The novel was translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves.

Submitted for the
Lost in Translation Reading Challenge.

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  1. Interesting. Nice review Harvee. Someday I'd like to see Barcelona and other Spanish cities and towns :)

    I see you've changed the look of your blog. I've also been planning to do some changes with mine, as well as get back to writing reviews. Hopefully I'll find the time soon :)

  2. I loved the book too! And you are right the basic story line is a book lovers story! That's what hooked me originally, but the writing was very good. The author's new book is soon to be published and I hear that it is built around a similar theme. Thanks for the great review!

  3. Oh, BTW, I like the new look of the blog too! It must be springtime because I changed my blog look too- spiced it up a little. Check it out when you have a chance and let me know what you think! Take care!

  4. Mark David: You'll like Barcelona, I'm sure. I wandered around Madrid and Barcelona many years ago, visited Franco's mausoleum and Gaudi's church, and rambled in the Ramblas market in Barcelona. I really liked the small village I visited on the Costa del Sol north of Barcelona though, even though I prefered to stay on the beach rather than attend the local bullfight. Barcelona is dramatic, and so is Spanish history, I think.

  5. Suzanne: You're right. I should have mentioned the author's excellent writing and the equally excellent English translation! A good story is nothing without good writing, don't you think?

  6. Well put, Harvee. I had a feeling you'd like this one. I too enjoyed it quite a lot. Thought it was brilliant.

  7. Thanks, George. And thanks for recommending it to me! I am now a fan of long, well-written, and compelling books, having read this one and also yours, Fidali's Way.

  8. I loved this book so much. Great review. I have his next book here waiting to be read.

  9. Beth; do you have an ARC of his book? I am so envious, if you do! Let me know when you post a review!

  10. I loved this book! I keep coming back to it to read over and over again!

  11. I love this book too. It was my favorite of the books I read in 2006.

  12. Great review! I forgot to mention it in my review but I really disliked the way the book ended.

    The Angel's Game was published in Norwegian in 2008 and The Shadow of the Wind in 2004. So here in Norway I'm probably the last person to read TSOTW(okay, that's a bit exaggerated, LOL), it was very popular when it first was released.

  13. This is my all-time favorite book.

    I loved it so much I went to Barcelona to find all the places in the book.

    Barcelona is BEAUTIFUL.

    Stopping by to take a look around.



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