I stayed up until 2 am for the second night in a row, finishing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The book was originally written in Spanish, (La Sombra del Viento), as Zafón is originally from Barcelona.
***The English translation is by Lucia Graves. I wanted to give her a shout out. Those who translate literature don’t get enough credit. I can’t imagine what a labor of love it is to find exactly the right words to translate not just the writing itself, but the feeling. Thanks to people like Lucia Graves, we can enjoy brilliant writing we may otherwise never have known.***
The book is a worldwide bestseller, and with good reason. This is one of the most engaging and beautifully written books I have ever read – it is essentially an ode to all who love books and reading.
The story is from the perspective of Daniel, a young motherless Spanish boy and the son of a bookshop owner. At 10 years old, Daniel is taken by his father to a secret and almost magical place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel tells us, “a labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry.”
Daniel’s father tells him, “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.” Daniel chooses “The Shadow of the Wind,” by Julián Carax. Little does young Daniel know how much he will grow to love this book. When he tries to seek out other books by Julián Carax he discovers that the book he owns is rare and valuable – that an unknown person has been going around and burning every Julián Carax book in existence. When Daniel decides to unravel the mystery, he could never anticipate how it would change his life.
I borrowed this book from the library but would love to purchase my own copy. It is one of those rare books worth re-reading with a highlighter in hand. The writing is sumptuous, with amazing imagery and fantastic dialogue. This is a book for readers, writers and lovers of language.
I believe I discovered this book in the Mystery section of my library but even with its ever twisting plots and infinite subplots, it’s so much more than that. It’s also a period novel (1920’s-1930’s), a thriller (some parts of this book rival Stephen King’s ability to keep the plot suspenseful and even scary. There were a few times my heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I almost closed the book for need of a break from the adrenaline!), and most surprising of all are the beautiful, sometimes tragic romances.
One of the most magical things about The Shadow of the Wind is that while you’ve never read a book quite like it, it somehow reminds you of every book you’ve loved. There is something vaguely familiar in its pages. The character Daniel is obviously a reflection of the author himself – Ruiz Zafón must be a bibliophile who has learned from the very best, honing his craft to perfection.
I can’t wait to read The Angel’s Game, Zafón’s prequel to The Shadow of the Wind. The English translation is due out June 2009.
“Every book, every volume you see here has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.”
“…few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory …”
-Shadow of the Wind/Carlos Ruiz Zafón