Book 22 Completed
“The art of reading is slowly dying…it’s an intimate ritual; a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us…when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”
The Shadow of the Wind is a treasure.
I should have known that it was going to leave me wrecked and broken, exhausted, but blissful. I had been plugging away pretty well when I first started, but then didn’t read much this weekend. So, I picked up the pace yesterday; and that was when I just couldn’t stop reading. Sleep eventually forced a time-out. And then I picked it up today and read in spurts every chance I could. I gave directions to my English class to respond to a prompt for five minutes, set the timer, and then walked around with my book, groaning when the buzzer went off and I was sucked back into working. I read during lunch. During passing time.
I read at red-lights on the way home.
I arrived home to the eager kisses and hugs of a beautiful boy…and then I promptly locked us up together in his room — I provided the blocks and the books and prayed that he could amuse himself. As a matter of fact, I did all my parenting tonight while reading this book: Making grilled cheese sandwiches, feeding the boy the sandwiches, giving the boy his bath, watching the boy run around — it never left my hand for a minute.
And when I finished it, I just held it for a second. It’s that kind of book.
The general idea of Zafon’s book is this: A young boy named Daniel is taken to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books where he finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. He realizes that he has found the rarest of rare books — perhaps the only novel left in existence from Carax (whose life and death is shrouded in mystery). He also finds out that someone has been destroying each and every copy of Carax’s novels; his ownership of The Shadow of the Wind starts a long, dangerous, and tense unraveling of the past.
This book is a book about love and loss, the power of books, the origins of hatred.
The language is amazing – it has style and cadence — a rhythm and hum. Don’t you just love it when you find a book with a compelling plot that also has a WOW factor with the simple unraveling of a sentence? (<—That sentence. Not such a fine example.) And I’m glad that Zafon played around with the style…I’m not automatically anti-flashbacks and letters to progress a story. Though there were times it felt a tad bit contrived. (However, I was totally sold on the story by the time those things annoyed me, so it didn’t deter me from my overall enjoyment.)
Zafon manages to create a world that is both real and powerfully dreamlike — gothic, surreal, and familiar. And what’s fun is that in the back of my book, the author/publisher included a little walking tour of Barcelona! It had a quote from the book, a picture of a place in Spain, and then a description. I’m such a sucker for fun things like that.
Some things to note: The Shadow of the Wind is no exception to the observation that the hero is the most boring character in the whole book. Daniel’s character is not nearly as well-developed as it could have been — he is a vehicle for Carax’s story to unfold and most of it unfolds around him as he broods or sulks or talks with monosyllabic responses. However, Zafon redeems Daniel’s lack of exciting character development by pairing him with such an incredibly wise, funny, and touching side-kick in the unforgettable Fermin.
I’ll be the first to admit that this book isn’t perfect. I was frustrated by the lack of good female characters – I can’t expand too much on that without spoilers. Also, the “book within a book” toward the end gave too much away in one-fell-swoop and I wasn’t fully satisfied that was the best way to reveal some of the mysteries to our hero.
But even those caveats shouldn’t deter readers. The Shadow of the Wind is packed with melodrama; it’s a haunting journey. Book lovers shouldn’t miss it for the sheer richness of its quotes about books, readers, and the act of reading — my copy is ferociously dog-eared and highlighted.
I can’t think of a better way to end the European leg of my journey.