I’m sorry for the massive delay – this wasn’t how I intended to start this blog – but I’m back for good! And there really isn’t a more apt book to start this site than ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
When his father takes him to a magnificent hidden library called the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, ten-year-old Daniel comes across the novel ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by an author called Julian Carax. He is swept away by the story and tries to figure out all he can about the book and its writer, yet is disheartened to discover that no one can tell him anything. Then one night an ominous man comes up to him through the smoke, like a character from Carax’s novel, and asks for the book. This leads Daniel to think there is something much deeper hidden in these pages, which results in the discovery of a dramatic chain of events centred around Carax which began several decades previous. Daniel finds himself head-first into a sinister and threatening mystery which will touch the lives of everyone around him.
This is my seventh (I think…) read of ‘TSOTW’ and I still get goose bumps at the description of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, just as I did the first time I read it. Each individual word feels purposely chosen to entice wonder out of the reader and for an ultimate book worm, it gives me shivers of the best kind. This section, and the whole novel, is full of dramatic flair and uses metaphors and similes that etch onto your very soul. The concept of the Cemetery lends itself ideally to the awe-provoking idea that no matter how much we may read and find ourselves letting lost in amazing literary worlds, there will be countless worlds we will never uncover.
“I couldn’t help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever.”
The slow, deliberate unravelling of the Carax storyline is still amazing. Intricate seeds of the plot are planted early on which I believe you can only appreciate fully on a second reading; this is a sign of a remarkably crafted novel. It is a mystery so well devised and well written that you feel you’re waiting with bated breath for the reveals, even with already knowing the outcomes. When the reveals do occur, they’re like a well-positioned blow to the back of the head: unexpected, effective, and deadly. Ruiz Zafón has this way of describing events which knocks you off-guard with its simplicity and bluntness, often amid wonderful, lyric description, that seems to increase the impact.
A comment about this novel (read on a Buzzfeed article) which stuck out to me was that the portrayal of the female characters in the novel was sexist. I will state there was more to the article but this is the main brunt. I do understand this view point, but I feel differently. It is my opinion that Ruiz Zafón does a great job of accurately depicting the relationships between men and women in the 1940s/50s – and sometimes earlier in the flashback scenes – which consequentially means the reality that some women were frequently oppressed is shown. He neither sugar-coats male and female relationships of the time, but nor does he romanticise it; you don’t finish reading the novel believing he is advocating the behaviour. Despite most the main characters being male (which makes no difference to me), the section written from the perspective of Nuria seems to show great, realistic insight into women – from my singular female opinion.
There is so much more I could say about this book but like all the best things in life, it’s best discovered on your own, first hand. There are enough stories in there for at least three novels and yet reads absolutely perfectly. Never has a book so brutally and wonderfully described different forms of love, and never have I read something which celebrated the beauty and danger of words and books so well.
If you want to dig deep into the never-ending world of literature, start in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and take the journey of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’.