Friday, September 28, 2012

The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series #1)

Daniel Sempere is the son of an antiquarian bookstore owner in Barcelona, Spain. In the summer of 1945 Daniel's father takes him for the first time to an inconspicuous, but remarkable place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It's to this sanctuary of the written word that books are brought in order to ensure they don't go from obscurity to oblivion. In the labyrinths of books being overseen there, Daniel chooses a book that he will protect himself: The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. As Daniel reads Carax's book, he quickly falls in love with it and learns that it's quite valuable.

For years, copies of it, and every other book written by Carax have been disappearing under unusual circumstances. One night Daniel is approached by a mysterious man who is horribly disfigured and who introduces himself as Laín Coubert; the same name the devil goes by in The Shadow of the Wind. Coubert offers to buy the book from Daniel and seems willing to pay any price for it, but Daniel refuses.

That encounter marks the beginning of a life-long fascination with the tragic life of Julian Carax. As he tries to uncover the events that led up to Carax's murder, layer upon layer of mysterious circumstances are revealed and Daniel finds himself the center of much unwanted attention.

The book is wonderful. Zafón mixes in elements from numerous genres: mystery, fantasy, romance, and horror, and he does so flawlessly. The writing itself is fantastic (the last paragraph below is a great example of what I mean) and the plot is complex and intelligent. It is the first of three books written so far involving Daniel and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and I'm looking forward to reading those as well. The Shadow of the Wind is an international best seller and has been translated into over 40 different languages, fortunately one of them is English.

Our sales lessen year by year. I'm an optimist, and I tell myself that what goes up comes down and what comes down must, one day, go up again. Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day. Every month we receive offers to turn our bookshop into a store selling televisions, girdles, or rope-soled shoes. They won't get us out of here unless it's feetfirst.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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