First of all, I would like to apologise that you have had to wait so long for this review! For some reason, I really struggled to get through this one! However, I’m back on track with reading now so it should only be a few days again until the next review 🙂
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First Published: 2001 (Spanish), 2004 (English)
At ten years old, Daniel stumbles upon a novel in the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, but his book, ‘The Shadow of the Wind,’ by Julián Carax, draws a lot of attention from those around him. Daniels undertakes the challenge of discovering more about the unknown author, but his investigation leads to deadly consequences.
When Daniel becomes ten years old, his father reveals to him the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books,’ the place where books are taken to after the closing of a library or a publisher warehouse. Books are saved from disappearing by the cemetery. Daniel is allowed to pick one book from his visit and he chooses ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julián Carax, or rather, it chooses him.
Fascinated by the novel and its mysterious author, Daniel embarks on a journey to unravel the secret history of the author, and his sudden departure from Barcelona to Paris in his teenage years. Daniel encounters numerous people on his journey to the truth, makes life-long friends and even falls in love. But some of the acquaintances he makes aren’t quite so friendly. When his life and the lives of his loved ones become threatened, Daniel realises that the mysterious Julián Carax had a darker side, and Daniel isn’t the only one looking for him…
I was really excited to read this novel, as I had heard so much praise for it and the concept seemed exactly up my street. However, once I started reading it, I found it incredibly difficult to engage with. The main characters in the novel are male, and extremely difficult to get along with. Something about them jarred with me, to the point when I didn’t care what they did or why. I think it was because the men seemed egotistic and irrational. At the same time, the majority of the women are equally arrogant and difficult.
Not only did I find the characters impossible to understand, but the plot was also equally incomprehensible. The narrative is dragged out over such a long period of time; you begin to lose track and faith in its progression. The trickles of information that are released to you are sparse and frustrating, as there is nothing to draw you in and really compel you to unravel the whole story.
The novel did have its good points however, there are some beautiful phrases used, which is why I have chosen so many favourite quotes. The ending of the novel (if you get that far) is also fantastic, and almost made me forget the struggle I had reading the plot. The last twenty-five pages completely transformed my opinion of the whole book, but at the same time, I still wish some revelation of its kind had come slightly earlier, so reading the first 450 pages didn’t feel so painful.
Ultimately, this book has me torn. After feeling completely disheartened and not even wanting to pick it up some days, the ending of the novel does make the slog worth it, however, with the book being so bulky, I fear that some people may give up before they get there. I was most disappointed with the fact that the plot had a lot of potential, but something in it was lacking. I eventually settled on a score of six out of ten, but up until the last few pages it was dwindling at a three. I’m really upset that I didn’t like this one and even though it has been a popular book, it just wasn’t one for me.
Favourite Quotes: ‘I followed my father through that narrow lane, more of a scar than a street…’ (p. 2)
‘As it unfolded, the structure of the story reminded me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable diminishing replicas of themselves inside. Step by step, the narrative split into thousands of stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections.’ (pp. 5-6)
‘…a story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.’ (p. 459)