Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I have to confess that this is not the type of book I normally read, but I needed a book about a library to check off one of my book challenges and this was recommended. It reminded me of reading Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code so many years ago. I’m not sure what it is about this genre of books. They are often on best seller lists so clearly speak to the masses and yet I’m just not a fan. The plot is just too predictable and the characters too shallow. The whole time I’m reading, I’m thinking, “got it, now get to the end.” Maybe I just don’t like melodrama.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish novelist and this book is set in 1940’s Barcelona.  Young Daniel, grieving over the loss of his mother, is taken by his bookstore owning father to a cemetery of forgotten books to choose one to rescue. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax and so begins his descent into the author’s mysterious life.

From there the story takes the predictable twists and turns, things don’t add up, characters come and go offering little pieces to the puzzle and all the while Daniel’s own coming-of-age story is told.

I did appreciate the parts of the story that touched on the history of the Spanish Civil War, Spain’s involvement in WWII and the era of Franco’s dictatorial government. It was interesting background that strengthened the landscape of the book. I also appreciated the detailed descriptions of Barcelona. The author brought the city hauntingly to mind and made me want to explore all the places he described.

And to be sure, his evident love for literature and the necessity of such is something I wholeheartedly agree with. To paraphrase Daniel, it only takes one book, the right book, to create a life-long lover of books and reading. Ruiz’s book has been translated into several languages and is sold in dozens of countries so clearly it is filling that mission for many. And in the end that’s all that matters.

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