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 The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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PostSubject: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón   Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:00 pm

The Shadow of the Wind opens in the summer of 1945. Our hero, Daniel Sempere, is just 10 years old and his father takes him for the first time to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a labyrinth of books that have been discarded from the public for one reason or another. Somehow those books, even if they are rare and out of print, always find their way to this magical place. Despite its name, the cemetery of forgotten books tries to keep those books ‘alive’ with a tradition whereby on a person’s first visit he or she must take a book and then that book becomes ‘theirs’ and it would then be their responsibility to ensure the book never disappears and is never forgotten.

Daniel Sempere is heir to the moderately successful Sempere & Sons bookshop, and upon his first visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books he selects The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. The boy then takes the book home and reads it in one night. He is fascinated by the story and soon makes inquiries about the author, only to find that no one knows much about him.

Daniel eventually learns from a rare book dealer that in spite of Julian Carax’s amazing talent for story-telling, he was unsuccessful in selling them. The dealer also goes on to explain that the main reason for the lack of availability of Carax’s work is due to a mysterious figure naming himself Lain Coulbert (the name of the devil from Carax’s Shadow of the Wind) who travels far and wide in search of works published by Julian Carax and then burns them, including a warehouse where the bulk of Carax’s unsold works were being stored.

One night, while looking out from his balcony, Daniel thinks he sees the silhouette of the mysterious Lain Coulbert, and then he learns that a man has been enquiring about his copy of the book, and soon he suspects that he too is being pursued by the arsonist. On Daniel’s 16th birthday he first comes face to face with the devil that seems to have sprung from Carax’s imagination. Lain Coubert, reeks of smoke and it is only when Daniel gets closer does he realise that Coubert has no skin on his face, no lips or eyelids; it seems that this devil has been keeping a watch over Daniel and wishes to purchase the book from Daniel. Shaken by the encounter Daniel flees and seems more determined than ever to discover the truth about Julian Carax and the mysterious Lain Coubert. Unfortunately for Daniel it is not just Coubert who is pursuing him, a sadistic police officer, who made his bloody reputation during the Spanish Civil War, seems to have taken an interest in the young boy and his friends and family.

The plot takes place over the course of ten years; however you would be wrong in thinking that such a time scale would deter from the action and suspense that the author skilfully builds. In fact most of the events have already taken place by the time the novel begins, and so it is not particularly important how much time passes throughout the book.

Zafon uses the post-civil war era as a backdrop and it is clear that the world around the characters is stained with blood and tragedy. There is little to celebrate in the lives of the characters, however this does not stop them from doing so. There are a number of small victories and great examples of communities pulling together to help one another. For me the jewel of the novel would have to be the character Fermín Romero de Torres, a homeless man that Daniel and his father take on as their assistant. Fermin acts as Daniels best friend, side-kick, but more than anything; he is his mentor to navigate through the tough world that has been forged since the end of the war. Fermin was a very enjoyable character to read about. I believe Fermin is to feature in Zafon’s third book of the series which will be released later this year, so that will give me something to look forward to.

What struck me most about Daniel is that he is a teenager that is identifiable. He gets his heartbroken and beat up on the same night, he is all too aware that he has little to offer the woman he loves and yet he still tries to win her over. As I have mentioned, there is little for the characters to celebrate about, and no more so than Daniel. Daniel is agreeable, amiable and often quite naïve but is aware that he has a cheeky smile that can get him out of any situation with an ill-tempered or suspicious character. Daniel is a self-confessed coward and there are moments in the novel when he really should do more to protect the people around him, but that is where the author remains true to the character he has created; Daniel is a bookish boy and not much of a fighter, which is where the real tension comes from. Daniel is just a young boy who likes books and gets caught up in a world of tyrants and monstrous cops hell-bent on settling vendettas.

I am not really one for recommending novels, but this is one that I’d highly recommend to anyone who likes gothic mysteries, tragic love stories, good characters and damned good story telling.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an author that has a genuine passion for novels and story-telling and it shows in every page and every word he writes. He is an author that every reader can trust to follow into his multi-layered plots that appear to be highly coincidental but ultimately, as the reader continues to read, we realise that there are no coincidences and everything happens for a reason.

If you are interested in Carlos Ruiz Zafon, then I would recommend visiting his webpage carlosruizzafon.co.uk where you’ll find Q&A’s and info about his other works. But for me the greatest thing was music composed by Carlos Ruiz Zafon to accompany his novels; The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game. And I thought I was the only one who scored their own novels.



Reviews for THE SHADOW OF THE WIND

'If you thought the gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. In Zafón's hands, every scene seems to come from an early Orson Wells movie. One gorgeous read.' STEPHEN KING

'For the first time in 20 years or so as a book reviewer, I am tempted to dust off the old superlatives and even to employ some particularly vulgar cliches from the repetoire of publishers' blurbs. My colleagues may be shocked, but I don't care, I can't help myself, here goes. THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a triumph of the storyteller's art. I couldn't put it down. Enchanting, hilarious and heartbreaking, this book will change your life.' DAILY TELEGRAPH

'Zafón's book is tremendously enjoyable... his story is impressively well-rounded. Humour, horror, politics and romance are skilfully deployed and... the overall effect is hugely satisfying. Zafón, a former screenwriter, is particularly good at contrast and pacing: the book's 400 pages whip past with incredible speed.' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

'What makes this novel so irresistibly readable is the emotional energy generated by the ups and downs of a big and varied cast of memorable characters. His conviction of the importance of literature in real life comes shining through. Walk down any street in Zafón's Barcelona and you'll glimpse the shades of the past and the secrets of the present, inscribed alike in the city's material fabric and the lives of its citizens.' Michael Kerrigan GUARDIAN

'Gripping and instantly atmospheric, this literary mystery opens in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a maze-like library of obscure tomes hidden away in Barcelona's Old City, where the hero, Daniel, is taken as a boy... But he little realises the evil which it will unleash and the devastating impact it will have on his life.' MAIL ON SUNDAY YOU MAGAZINE

'For bibliophiles there can be few more enticing-sounding places than the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books'... THE SHADOW OF THE WIND has been a publishing phenomenon in Spain and throughout Europe... Combining all the best elements of crime fiction with an investigation of the power of literature to shape our lives and imaginations, it is one of the most original and compelling stories of the past decade.' NICK RENNISON WATERSTONES QUARTERLY

'A potent mix: a coming-of-age story set in Barcelona's post-war years, an edge of fantasy, a tragic love story, and a labyrinth of mystery.' Ben Page THE BOOKSELLER.

'Zafón makes sure there's a robust serving of amor, and enough magic, murder and madness to keep even the most reluctant reader engrossed. Diabolically good.' ELLE MAGAZINE

'Everything about THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is smooth. The language purrs along, while the plot twists and unravels with a languid grace... Zafón's novel is atmospheric, beguiling and thoroughly readable.' OBSERVER

'Set in the author's native Barcelona in the years after the Spanish Civil War, this gripping novel has the feel of a gothic ghost story, complete with crumbling, ivy-covered mansions, gargoyles and dank prison cells.... this is just the sort of literary mystery that would have found favour with Wilkie Collins.' DAILY MAIL

'Good old-fashioned narrative is back in fashion... his tale [has] a dramatic tension that so many contemporary novels today seem to lack. This is highly-sophisticated, fun reading that keeps you gripped and tests the brain cells all at the same time. What more could you ask for?' THE SCOTSMAN

'This epic novel spent two years on the Spanish bestseller list. It's easy to see why.... Zafón is planning to write another three books around the same theme , and if they keep the pulse pumping and the pages turning as reliably as this fantastic piece of fiction, he will have a publishing phenomenon on his hands.' SUNDAY HERALD

'The translation by Lucia Graves is excellent, mixing formality with poetry... The twists of the story which fold in on itself again and again like complicated origami, eventually reveal a simple shape. Love and deception are at the heart of the literary mystery - aren't they always?' SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY

'This is such a racy, enthralling tale that it is easy to see why it spent two years on the bestseller list when it was first published in Spanish and Catalan... clever and expertly told... an extremely good read.' THE HERALD

'The book is written by someone witty and knowing enough to spoof himself while still being able to raise the hairs on the back of your neck... Carlos Ruiz Zafón's zest is infectious... He swathes his story with atmospherics... Barcelona becomes a place of doors opening into dark interiors of the mind... Behind all this is a fierce satirical energy against the tyrants and philistines of history... A game it may be, but somewhere in the shadows are the Caprichos of Goya.' THE ECONOMIST (US AND UK EDITION)

'Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges...Ruiz Zafón gives us a panoply of alluring and savage personages and stories. His novel eddies in currents of passion, revenge and mysteries whose layers peel away onion-like yet persist in growing back... we are taken on a wild ride that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches.' NEW YORK TIMES

'wondrous... ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero.' ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

'A rousing adventure that reads as if Jorge Borges were writing in the mode of Umberto Eco's 'The Name of the Rose.' US ELLE MAGAZINE

'If you love AS Byatt's 'Possession', Marquez's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'... Eco's 'The Name of the Rose'... or Paul Auster's 'New York Trilogy'... then you will love THE SHADOW OF THE WIND... Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up 'The Shadow of the Wind.' THE WASHINGTON POST

'Set in post-war Barcelona, Zafón's tightly plotted thriller is sharp, sexy, gothic (perhaps even a little ghoulish), powerfully atmospheric, often funny and utterly unputdownable THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is more than a book about a book - it's an inspired homage to the book, a celebration of writing, and an exhortation to read.' THE AUSTRALIAN

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND will keep you up for nights - and it'll be time well spent. Absolutely marvellous.' *starred review* KIRKUS REVIEWS.

Chosen as best recent book to take on holiday: 'Carlos Ruiz Zafón's wonderfully chock-a-block novel THE SHADOW OF THE WIND starts with the search for a mysterious author in Barcelona in the aftermath of the Civil War and then packs in as many plots and characters as it does genres - Gothic melodrama, coming-of-age story, historical thriller and more. It is a deeply satisfying, rich, full read.' Michael Prodger Deputy Literary Editor, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
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PostSubject: Re: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón   Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:55 pm

Thank you for that review. Now I really want to check out Zafon! study

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