85 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enduring Classic
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is literary fiction in the truest sense. It is a novel about books - about one book in particular - and about the power of words to inspire, inflame and ultimately destroy.
10-year-old Daniel Sempere discovers `The Shadow of the Wind' in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and from that moment his life becomes entwined with and...
Published on 30 Sep 2011 by A. G. Lockhart
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book- I didn't.
I am aware that I am in the minority with what I am about to say here, this book has sold over seven million copies worldwide and is the second best selling book in Spanish history, so I could well be wrong, but I really struggled with this. I nearly gave up on it on several occasions, which I never do.
The story, and I can only give a really topline summary...
Published on 17 Jan 2010 by Mingo Bingo
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Total Concentration Needed,
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I love to read books, have a degree in literature and always have at least two books on the go at once that I am reading. This book is excellently written but was like reading Canterbury Tales in Middle English. It is not for the casual reader. I got a third of the wa y through it and have put it down. It needs time and concentration to get through. It has many layers - stories within stories - that needs total devotion to get the most out of this book. It's no beach read. But if one is looking for a meaty book that will take devotion to get through, this is the one.
124 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic fantasy of censorship,
This is an engrossing work; within the first chapter or two you understand why it has become such a popular novel. It's 1945, it's Barcelona, the Civil War has been lost and Franco's Fascists are firmly in control ... though feeling insecure, because Hitler's Fascism is crumbling and Mussolini's has already been dismantled. A bookseller takes his young son, Daniel, on an adventure ... a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, there to choose one forgotten work and treasure it.
Thus begins the child's fascination with the author of "The Shadow of the Wind", one Julian Carax. The child grows, determined to discover who was this mysterious Carax, why did he flee Barcelona, and why is some mysterious stranger determined to destroy all copies of his books and all trace of his life.
The destruction of an artist's life and works is a potent exploration of censorship and the ability of Franco's followers to fictionalise history. Carlos Ruiz Zafon has life imitating art: Daniel's life seems to parallel Carax's! Is this a case of not learning from history? One of the characters remarks that true evil requires thought and reason, but that most people who do evil are too stupid to intellectualise their behaviour: they act simplistically out of corrupted emotions ... fear, anger, jealousy, guilt, greed.
Fascism, we see, took a hold because not enough people were prepared to act to stop it. Fascism will return if people are too lazy to think, to value, to question. History can repeat itself unless people learn.
But Fascism - which tries to impose a rigid structure on the State and its people - creates intense loneliness. People live in fear of exposure, of seizure by the secret police because they dare to think differently. Daniel's is the loneliness of fear, but it's also the loneliness of teenage love - lusty, erotic, but ultimately fragile and insecure. As a teenager, how do you know you are in love? You weave your dreams and hopes, but lack the experience to compare, to know for sure. You barely understand desire, let alone love. As a teenager, history never repeats itself, because you simply don't yet have enough emotional history!
Haunted, pursued by the mysterious leather-faced man who is out to destroy Carax's work, Daniel is haunted by the women he desires, is haunted by the need to construct a sexual and emotional self beyond the boundaries of childhood. Freedom, here, is hardly political freedom, but rather escape from emotional and sexual censorship. As Daniel strides out into the world, we watch his friendships and family dissolve around him. He has to build adult relationships now, not childish ones.
This is a book which works on so many levels. The focus is primarily on the fantasy world Daniel creates, the fantasy, shadowy world of resistance to Fascism, to censorship and mind control. It is fantasy until it runs smack into reality, the reality of a mature world. Suddenly, we have a murder mystery on our hands. We have political intrigue. We have eroticism.
"The Shadow of the Wind" is an extraordinarily well-written novel. It moves at a gentle, cerebral pace - you barely notice you are on a rollercoaster ride through fantasy. Yet it is a wonderful evocation of Barcelona - not the city of tourist brochure and sunshine, but a dark, mysterious city, lived in by real people enduring real fear and oppression. The fantasy is merely a dark cloak - once you begin to peer under it you feel this is a vivid insight into the subconscious of Spain.
It is a wholly absorbing, and highly unusual, mystery which will engross you. If I have one criticism, I felt the last quarter of the novel is comparatively weak. The ending can appear a little hasty and contrived. Having created a fantasy, turned it into a dark mystery and eroticised the romance, the ending could have been better played and plotted. But overall, a lovely, thoroughly enjoyable novel which will engage you on a number of levels and leave your mind stimulated.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too long for its own good...,
My wife loved this book so I decided to read it as we often enjoy the same books. At page 260 I decided to check out the reviews on amazon and now understand better why I don't like it. There are some clumsy translations - not quite colloquial - but that is not my main complaint. The big problem for me is the writing style is the novel equivalent of a groaning buffet - too much that is not different enough to add value resulting in serious risk of indigestion. I have recently enjoyed Moby Dick, Don Quixote and several books by Dickens so I am not fazed by length or detail. The problem with this book is that in too many places there is far too much detail that does nothing but confuse and bore. There are occasional passages that succeed in painting memorable mental images but they are vastly outweighed by over-long passages that appear self-indulgent on the part of the author or lacking in focus.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it possible to give a 6 out of 5 stars?!,
This has got to be one of the best books written in recent years. It is truly the most remarkable book, I can not recommend this highly enough.
For any one who considers themselves to be a book lover, this is the book for you - it about the love of books.
I, like another reviewer here, loved the idea that a book has a soul that can be kept alive by reading.
Facism, like any dictatorship system of government, destroys the power that words have. The first thing to go when setting up a facist state is the freedom of speech and individual thought, and literature is the physical evidence of thought - books and art get destroyed.
Not only does The Shadow of the Wind portray all of this and more, it is a truly wonderful romantic story set in one of the most fascinating cities in the world: it sets you on fire, changes your world and keeps you awake till 3 in the morning!
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic - not to be missed!,
Being a bonafide bookHOG (bookworm is too light a title for the ferocity with which I seek out and devour books), I've become relatively cynical (and easily bored) with a lot of modern fiction, but this story was different. It was written in such a beautiful classic style, inter-weaving so many strands of plot complexities in a way that kept you guessing what would come next (thus keeping your interest from ever flagging). It blended just the right amounts of humour, mystery, magic, supernatural, erotic, historical. It touched me and mesmerised me. I loved it so much I couldn't put it down for two days until I had finished it (much to the chagrin of my family!) Now my husband is reading it and seems to be equally entranced.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone!
55 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scorchio!,
If you haven't read The Shadow of the Wind yet, you will soon. Or someone you know will. It's going to be big. We know this because a certain high street booksellers have been championing it since before Xmas, and I understand their buying manager loved it so much that he persuaded the publishers to bring out a large-format paperback for the Christmas market. And it doesn't even come out in properback until August. By then Richard and Judy will be discussing it on their Book Group - since this time last year, every publisher's wet dream has been to get one of their titles on the Madeley-Finnegan coffee table, and the plucky little Spaniard is one of the lucky ones this time.
It deserves the attention: and it's not so little either. At 400 closely typed pages (spaced and stretched to a more easy-breathing 500 in the forthcoming paperback), it's pretty long as they come but I polished it off in three days. This is because it effortlessly earns that most devalued of reviewerly portmanteaus: unputdownable. There's a reason for this: it's a plot-driven novel, a thriller of all things. I was wondering why it thrilled me so much. It does perhaps have pretensions to a higher form of literary life with its rarefied atmosphere of dusty books in Civil War-era Spain, its carefully observed portrayal of a young male in love (and lust), and its beautiful writing - and on those grounds justifies its airs admirably. As a potboiler, it's Le Creuset, but a potboiler nonetheless. That's not to criticise: when my heart was in my mouth at the scene where the teenage narrator, Daniel, chances upon his beloved in flagrante with her music teacher (known as 'The Magic Flute' for precisely this sort of thing), I can't say whether it was because Zafón made me empathise with the heartfelt pain of the boy, or was just delivering a well-paced bit of melodrama.
There's plenty more where that came from. The book is awash with sexual intrigue, swapped identities, and devilish apparations, two parts wool-pulled-over to one part rug-pulled-from-under. Indeed, so involved is the plot, scattered with hairpins and switchbacks, that part of the reason I read it so quickly may well have been simply to make sure I didn't lose my way. Even then I am not sure I succeeded, with Zafón expertly diving into stories within stories, switching points of view and never so much as mentioning a character without guaranteeing them a detailed study and history somewhere in the pages. Comparisons have been made with Umberto Eco (nah, it's far too readable for that) and Paul Auster (more like it) but for my money the missing link was Theodore Roszak's Flicker, where the narrator plunges into a world of conspiracy and intrigue in search of a lost filmmaker, and which Philip French in the Observer (Who Is Never Wrong) called the best novel ever written about films - change filmmaker for novelist and you have Shadow of the Wind replicated to a tee, down to the knowing air of over-the-top craziness.
So The Shadow of the Wind could conceivably have been shorter (he doesn't seem to know when to end the damn thing either: there are no fewer than four codas after the main denouement), and it is more riddled with melodrama than a baddie's body is with bullets - oh, and it has a rubbish title. But it's a breeze, and a romp, and has some great characterisation and lines (Fermín the former tramp deserves a book of his own, but then, this pretty much is it), and will be unavoidable anyway this year. So take the easy way and get in the ground floor.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a captivating read - fantastic,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Shadow of the Wind (Hardcover)
Based in Barcelona during the 1940s and 50s the book traces the adventures of Daniel who at the age of eleven gets taken by his father to the cemetery of the forgotten books, an immense library where endangered books are taken for safe keeping. He becomes mesmerised by one of its books and soon wants to find out everything about its author. His search soon becomes shrouded with mystery and intrigue.
I found this book both charming and frightening, hysterically funny and painfully tender. The characters are rich and varied and the plot is superb. It is without doubt the most original and entertaining book that I have read in a long time and I could not put it down until I had devoured it. It manages to combine the surreal elements of Bulgakov, the subtle intrigue of a Hitchcock screenplay and Garcia-Marquez's rich use of language. (and if that sounds too pretentious then all I can say is that it was a damn good read)
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling and Captivating read,
From watching the discussion on C4's Richard and Judy - Book Club I decided to read this book, and am thankful that I did so!
The story is beautiful, about love, murder mystery, discovery, friendships and enemies. The author presents such a diverse amount of characters, that jump out to you from the page, and are easily relateable to the reader.
Zafon captures the real essence of where this novel is set, Barcelona. You must remember that this is a translation, as the original work was written in Spanish, and many readers see this as a fault. Nevertheless, it is a modern masterpiece that will move, entrance and challenge readers for many years to come.
86 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon,
This review is from: The Shadow Of The Wind (Hardcover)
"I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day."
The Shadow of the Wind is a novel about books; about the love of books and of stories, (and is far more accessible than Eco's The Name of the Rose). It is absolutely full of stories itself, with not a single character without one. Not all, of course, are told. For this is the story of Daniel Sempere, a young Spanish boy, growing up in Barcelona just after the end of the Civil War.
One day, ten-year-old is taken by his father, a bookseller, to the "Cemetery Of Forgotten Books", a hidden library where forgotten titles are lovingly preserved on a labyrinth of shelves. Daniel is told that he must keep this place a secret, but that he's allowed to take one book - any book - from the shelves, and protect it for life. He selects "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax. That night he reads the book and is spellbound from the first page.
Daniel then vows to seek out the rest of Carax's titles, but none can be found. Carax himself also remains a mystery. No one knows anything much about him, save for rumours that he disappeared following a duel in Paris's Pere Lachaise cemetery. Carax's only legacy is a mysterious figure who haunts the streets of Barcelona, who has been tracking down every last one of Carax's novels in order to burn them. Why would anyone want to remove all trace of the author's work? The mysterious man approaches Daniel, who refuses to give him the copy of The Shadow of the Wind - which he then hides back in the Cemetery of Forgotten books. As Daniel grows up he begins to investigate the history of Julian Carax, to discover the truth of his life and death. It's a quest that will bring him, and his friends, into grave danger.
It's a marvellous book, a wonderful, wonderful experience. It resonates with the love of books and of literature. It's also a very hard novel to pin down - it has elements of absolutely everything, a historical adventure story, a crime novel, hints of the supernatural, as well as a very tense thriller and an enchanting love story. It's superb, and every page a joy. There's magic, here, on every page. It's indefinable, but in lies in such lines as this: "He hardly slept, he explained, and would set himself up in the sitting room on a folding bed lent to him by his neighbour, Monsieur Darcieu - an old conjuror who read young ladies' palms in exchange for a kiss."
You can tell from even a brief synopsis that this is just a special, unique novel. It's full of mystery, and enchanting characters. The descriptions are wonderful, lush and delicious - although the author does tend to toss similes around like loose change, and they don't always correspond to one another. The language may also be too flamboyant for some, but in actual fact it just highlights where this novel springs from: a love of words and language. It's incredibly vivid (possibly due to the author's obsessions with colours), and pulses with life. Lucia Graves, the translator (very aptly, the daughter of Robert Graves), has done a very good job indeed. As something is always "lost in translation", this novel must be even better in the original Spanish, which I think probably has a lot more synonyms for "poison" and "poisonous" than does English, so many times do those two words crop up.
It's all excellent. As you can see, it's not flawless, but it is just a pure pleasure to read, to be immersed in a story which itself sings the joys of stories. It also says something rather interesting about stories themselves: we the lives of Daniel and Julian mirror each other eerily across decades we get a sense that every story repeats itself in history at some time or another. Threads dance and connect them both across the years. Joy and misery (there's quite a great deal of lost love and loneliness, this novel being also a plea against both those things) spiral through the whole thing, and the end is wonderfully satisfying. I absolutely loved this book, as you can tell. Right now, I think the best novels around are coming out of Europe: the works of Henning Mankell, Donna Leon, Jose Carlos Somoza, Arnaldur Indridason, and Karin Fossum, for example. And Ruiz Zafon is now another name to add to that list.
It's not a book without humour and wit, either, and there are some brilliant one-liners. A visit to a brothel is described thus: "A lineup of ladies with their virtue for rent - and a lot of mileage on the clock - greeted us with smiles that would only have excited a student of dentistry."
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm not sure,
I read this book and would agree that is a page turner but not quite like any I've ever read before. There are so many characters and the story goes around in a very big circle and at the end of the day I feel that there was nothing really that made me care about the characters or their misfortunes - and there are many of them. Not quite sure what all the fuss is about perhaps I've missed something.
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