Shadow of the Wind

Just another book recommendation. This one is called “The Shadow of the Wind” by a Spanish author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I read the English translation. This isn’t my usual genre and I picked up the novel because my brother recommended it from Malaysia. I enjoyed the book; its well worth a read. I can’t seem to categorize this book, it defies a label. Suspense/drama/romance/action; they’re all in there intrinsically.

The  book starts out with a father taking his ten year old son to a secret place called “the Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, a place where books go when they have been abandoned or lost. The boy, the main character, must select a book from the hundreds of thousands in the dark mystical place, adopt it and promise to make sure that it is not forgotten. The book the boy finally selects is called ‘the Shadow of the Wind’ written by an obscure author known to just a handful of people.

The boy, Daniel, is so mesmerized when he reads this book that he sets out to discover its history and the life of its author. That’s when trouble starts; the more he discovers, the more terrifying and mysterious its author becomes. A character from the book, no less than Satan incarnate, comes alive and starts killing people when Daniel starts discovering the tragic life of its author and all those connected with him.

I was skeptical when I first picked it up but after reading just a few pages, I was hooked. I generally read two or three different books at the same time and switch between them as my mood dictates. But once I started reading this book, I laid all others aside till I finished it. A very powerful tale told with élan and impeccable style with just the right amount of humor to ease off the tension. But the book is not simple, a myriad of twist and turns of the plot and stories within stories keeps the reader hooked till the final conflict in the end. This book is set in the early and middle of the last century in Barcelona when there was always a shadow of war in the background – a civil war and then the second World War.

Zafon’s prose is both fluid and complex. You can see the images in full color in your mind when you read his words. You can also smell, taste and feel whatever he wants you to when you are in his world. Like many other great books I have read, this book is ultimately about the perpetual war between good and evil we all carry within ourselves with all the grays that form the fabric of our being. Its also about loss and redemption – of life, of love and of your soul. You get so lost in his world that you start comparing yourself and start taking sides of fictional characters in this book. It takes a lot of skill to weave a magic this personal through scribbles on a piece of paper and Zafon is an effortless weaver.

This is the first book I have read from this author and I am sure I will be reading a lot more of his work in the future. This one has far exceeded my expectations and I have no doubt that his future work will be just as impressive if not more. It’s a rare talent that can leave such a profound impression from a mere translation.

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