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I won The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón a little while ago at a giveaway organised by Shannon at Giraffe Days. I had never heard of the book before – although since then I have seen it being mentioned a few times, or paid attention to it – but the description attracted me and it seemed like a book I would like. And I liked it! I liked it a lot, so much that I have already offered it twice since finishing it…
I love this feeling when you get a book you barely know anything about and you just start reading it without any preconceptions and not really knowing what you are up for. You might get disappointed, but in this case I was not.
I brought it with me when I went to Spain earlier this year as I thought it would be the right setting to read it, although I was in Madrid and not Barcelona. I read the beginning of it fairly quickly as I was travelling and had nothing else to do, but once I got back home, I had so much to do that I had to take a break. I then got back into it and finished it very quickly. I actually stayed up until 5am one night and had to force myself to put it down to get a bit of sleep; something I had not done for a long time. The first thing I did when I woke up was to pick it up again and read it until I had finished it. This is the first thing I can say about The Shadow of the Wind: it is extremely addictive.
It is a story about books, about love, about friendship, about revenge, about murder. The narrative is driven by a complex plot that takes you across a few decades of the 20th century. I left myself being taken away by this engrossing story and went through many emotions – yes, I did cry – while reading it. It is so pleasurable to just let yourself sink in a story and forget about everything else.
As he wakes up one night as a kid, Daniel, the narrator is taken by his dad to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he finds a book, The Shadow of the Wind, written by an obscure author, Julian Carax. As he wants to learn more about the author, Daniel discovers that some mysterious character has set to burn all the books written by Carax. Through his journey to unravel the mystery surrounding Carax, Daniel is going to encounter many enigmas and complications that lead him to meet memorable characters both dead and alive. I think that the relationship that touched me the most while I was reading is the one between Daniel and is father. Daniel’s father will gain your sympathy and I felt a few pangs of pain when things were not going well between them. This is another element appreciated in this novel: Daniel is not a perfect character and is often annoying – I increasingly tend to dislike perfect characters.
Although the novel is a bit clichéed, it does not ruin the thrill and many surprises await the reader as we get deeper into the mystery. The atmosphere is dark and gothic and the novel feels like a sensationalist Victorian novel, such as The Woman in White.
The suspense increasingly grows through the story and we are at times given clues enlightening our reading or complicating it. However, I must admit I was slightly disappointed by the revelations and the way they were delivered. I, of course, wanted the mystery to be resolved, or at least parts of it, but, suddenly, everything is explained linearly through a long letter written to Daniel.
I was also a bit disappointed by the ending, which is really tied up. I would have liked a bit more mystery to remain. On the one hand, I wanted a happy ending, but on the other my emotions had been so stirred by reading the story that I would have liked it to remain that way.
Considering the pleasure this book gave me, these are just details. I finished it a couple of months and it has stayed with me since. It is a book that will please booklovers, amateurs of mystery and of love stories alike.