Friday, October 31, 2008

REVIEW: The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Published 2005 by Penguin.

I didn't know this when I started reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon's utterly absorbing book, but The Shadow of the Wind is the perfect book for Halloween. It's about a young boy named Daniel in post-civil war Spain who finds a mysterious book, The Shadow of the Wind, in a labyrinthine library, by which he is entranced- so much so that he dedicates himself to learning as much as he can about the book and its enigmatic author, one Julian Carax.

His search brings him to a haunted mansion filled with secrets, a creepy hospital whose patients aren't quite what they seem, and through a Barcelona barely recovered from a bloody, traumatic civil war. There are stories within the story, about another young boy lifted out of an unhappy family by a strange benefactor, a doomed, forbidden love affair and a frustrated, unhappy woman who dies tragically. Daniel himself is haunted by a dark, disfigured stranger on a mission to burn every last copy of Carax's works, and a vengeful, psychotic police detective who has already left a long trail of misery.

Into this marvelous, fireside-worthy ghost story Zafon has added an impressive cast of characters, major and minor. Particularly memorable are the deeply traumatized and yet still charming Fermin Romero de Torres, who provides both pathos and comic relief, and the snake-like Francisco Javier Fumero, the bloodthirsty policeman with a history of viciousness and violence. Zafon has also created three erotic, emotionally-charged love stories that add a great deal to the story. Perhaps the most memorable character of all is Spain itself; Zafon sprinkles the book with details that remind the reader how the trauma of the civil war still reverberates for his characters- a wall pockmarked by bullets, the ever-present threat of the secret police and the wounds and scars on the bodies of the survivors, including Daniel's confidant Fermin.

Without giving anything away, let's just say it all ends a lot better than I expected. Literary in style and generally serious in tone, The Shadow of the Wind isn't necessarily a quick read or an light read, but it was a very satisfying and very rewarding read. Though one major theme of the book is the idea of being haunted by the past, it ends up very much about hope for the future. Zafon takes us through some pretty steep twists and turns to get there, and I'd definitely recommend it for readers who like an intelligent, suspenseful thrill ride leading to a satisfying and optimistic conclusion.

13 comments:

Laura said...

Ooh, this sounds great. I was already planning to request this from my library in the next couple of days ... hope to be reading it by next weekend!

Katherine said...

Oh, I love this book! Deliciously creepy, and you're right, a perfect read for this time of year.

mangomissives said...

The Shadow of the Wind was a really great read, wasn't it? My book club read it last winter and everyone loved it. It was a unique story yet in a way reminded me of some of my favorite reads.

rjsbooklady said...

This is one of my all-time favorites, and I'm so glad to see that you enjoyed. Zafon gave the book such an amazing gothic feel, and I just keep wanting to go back to it over and over again.

candyschultz said...

I read this when it came out and I loved it. I don't even remember the creepiness but I loved the library and the books. He has some profound quotes in there as well, one of which I have on my blog right now. Do you know if he has written anything since?

tapestry100 said...

This is one of my favorite books! One of the books that I recommend to people on a regular basis.

candyschultz said...

Thanks Marie. I will definitely be looking for that.

S. Krishna said...

I loved this book! Great review!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

This has been in my TBR pile for months...I've simply got to read it. Nice review!

mattviews said...

Oh I never thought about its being a Halloween book. But I enjoyed the book so much that I didn't put it down all day. Lots of twists and turns...I love it! :)

Shana said...

Marie, you find the best sounding books! The fact that this is set in post-civil war Spain and 'literary in tone' pretty much sold me. I'm definitely adding it to my list of books to track down.

Shana
Literarily

Andi said...

I enjoyed this book for the fact that it's such a book lover's book. On the other hand, I thought the conclusion was a little melodramatic for my taste. Overall, though, I really liked it, and I pass along the recommendation often. Great review!

Anna said...

Great review. I might take a look at this one. I'm curious about what you said about the country being a character. How intriguing!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric