This book has sat on my “to-be-read” shelf for a long time – and after reading it I wonder how I could have let it linger so long unread. The Shadow of the Wind
is a rich tapestry of writing – a gothic tale of love and mystery, of betrayal and suspense. Zafon’s sense of place never wavers. The reader is pulled into the setting and enveloped in the dark, crumbling mansions and the candlelit hallways of post-war Barcelona.
A few seconds later, the weak current of the lightening system, which had defined the shapes of buildings and windows, faded away. On the flooding sidewalks, the streetlamps blinked, then went out like candles snuffed by the wind. There wasn’t a soul to be seen in the streets, and the darkness of the blackout spread with a fetid smell that rose from the sewers. The night became opaque, impenetrable, as the rain folded the city in its shroud. -From The Shadow of the Wind, page 57-
Zafon captures the reader quickly. When Daniel, a ten year old boy, is brought to a mysterious place called The Cemetery of Books, his father swears him to secrecy and then explains: “According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever one he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive. It’s a very important promise. For life,” explained my father. “Today it’s your turn.”
Daniel chooses a book – or perhaps the book chooses him. It is a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, written by Julian Carax and it entrances the boy and takes him on a convoluted journey which is swathed in mystery. Who is the man with no face who has set out to destroy every book every written by Julian Carax? What became of the author?
Zafon’s novel is filled with memorable characters – my favorite being Fermin Romero de Torres, a homeless man saved from the gutter by Daniel and his father and who comes with a dark and cryptic history of his own. Fermin’s wonderful philosophy of life, filled with bawdy humor made me laugh out loud at times.
The novel’s plot is twisting – weaving back in time and making unexpected turns. No one is who they seem to be. Characters in Daniel’s found novel become intertwined with people he knows or has known. Zafon keeps the reader guessing with his compelling and dramatic story filled with betrayal, murder, missing people and romance.
The Shadow of the Wind is a giant of a book and a must read for bibliophiles and those who love epics with a gothic flavor.