Books

Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The Cemetery of forgotten books; The Shadow of the Wind


Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Fiction/historical fiction
Pages: +- 506
Standalone novel/part one of the Cemetery of forgotten books series.

“Come, Daniel, get dressed. I want to show you something.”
Daniel’s ten years old when his father takes him to the Cemetery of forgotten books. A wonderful place where all books lost are stored until, some day, someone will come and find the book he or she is meant to have and protect.
Daniel is allowed to choose one book to take from the great library that is the Cemetery of forgotten books. There he finds; The Shadow of the Wind, by an unknown author called Julian Carax.
While Daniel grows up to be a young man, the mystery of Julian Carax will push him to his limit to find out the truth about the life and death of this curious man.

This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.
When a library disappears or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure it gets here.

Daniel is ten years old when his father takes him to the Cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona. There he is allowed to pick one book to take home with him, to hold and protect it, and overall: to remember and give life to that book.
In one night Daniel finishes the book and that is how the mystery starts. Who is this mysterious Julian Carax and why does nobody seem to remember him even though it wasn’t that long ago that he wrote The Shadow of the Wind?
Daniel comes in contact with Don Gustavo, a man known by  his father, who’s known by his interest in odd books.
Some time passes and then a stranger emerging from the shadows contacts Daniel. A stranger who has much in common with one of the characters in Carax’s book, a man without a face.
Through time Daniel falls in love and grows up to be a young man. But still he keeps thinking about Carax, wanting to find out as much as he can about this man. Bit by bit he gains knowledge about the life of Carax, but can it be enough to protect those the young author left behind?
For an old enemy is still waiting patiently until the time comes when he can finish his job.

In The Shadows of the Wind you’ll follow Daniel while he looks back to the time when he is taken to the Cemetery of forgotten books by his father.
From that point you’ll follow everything from his point of view, walk with him through this tale of mystery. (“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure.” Gandalf).
You’ll be dragged into the book if you want it or not, at least… if you like a little bit of mystery and shadows.
Zafón describes in detail the situation in Barcelona during the Civil war and a little during the Second World War.  With his words he sketches a portrait of the daily life at that time for the commoners and those elite in the society. He shows how the corruption ruled the higher classes in society during the Civil war and right after it. There are a lot of details that make the story just a bit more it by setting the environment, without those details this story could have taken place in this time or even in the Roman period.

I started reading this book because my mum read it to… Yeah good one is it? But true enough. After she finished it in about two to three days she was bewitched by this book and so I thought; well, everyone is making a fuss of it anyway and if she things this book is great, why not give it a try?
And so I took the leap.
At first I thought it was going to be something fantasyish because of the Cemetery of forgotten books and all that. Turned out it was a fiction/mystery kind of thing! I was a bit surprised there but it turned out okay. This boodog-jumpingk was a good read for me. I liked the mystery, the constant wanting more and the fact that it took quite some time until the mystery was solved.
The way Zafón brought that period of Spain’s history to life was what interested me most. He subtly put into words how important religion was at the time, how corrupt the system and, most of all, how the daily life of most people was during that time. I like the fact that he didn’t take one of the elite as a main character but someone more common, someone you as a reader can identify with.
Now, even though I liked the book it took me some time to finish it… about two weeks time.
That’s not because I couldn’t make myself read it, I was quite busy working and other stuff, but because to read this book you need your full attention because otherwise you’ll miss some artfully placed hints or you’ll miss so much of the story that it won’t make any sense later on.
Like every good writer does, he makes you love or hate (maybe a bit of both) his characters and that was what he did to me. Something I particularly liked about his characters was the way they grew, mostly Daniel of course because you follow him directly. But even though you only follow Daniel for the largest part in this book, there are no real ‘flat’ characters in this story. Every single person has a history, a personality and a life. Naturally this does not apply for every character but it does for most of them.

To wrap this up:
I liked the book, simple as that. I think it is well written and I think it’s interesting that he chose that time period for his novel.
Because I liked it but didn’t really felt like I had the my-likyyyy-thingy going on I give this book 3.5 five stars. Because it was interesting, something different and a good read 🙂

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