I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.
On the back of numerous recommendations I finally picked up The Shadow of the Wind this month and was immediately transported into the romantic and mysterious world of 1940s Barcelona. Following the life of Daniel Sempere who, at the age of ten, is taken by his father into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to find a book to treasure forever. On picking The Shadow of the Wind by the unheard-of author Julián Carax, Daniel is swept away by the magic of the story and immediately goes in search of other Carax novels to enjoy. He soon discovers, however, that a mysterious character is systematically destroying every copy of Carax’s backlist and is lurking in the shadows to burn the next – his.
This is without question a book written for book lovers, for it is a beautifully written and composed novel that explores the concepts of character, author and the ownership of stories. Far from being just a ‘book about books’, Zafón’s novel plays with different genres (gothic, romance, historical, humour and crime) and creates some of the most memorable, tortured and interesting characters I’ve ever read.
There is an unbelievably clever balancing act happening throughout the novel, offsetting the atmospheric with the humorous and the literary with the light-hearted. Zafón’s unique writing style of poetic-prose and his blend of traditional and modern sensibilities is what makes this story utterly majestic!
Whereas some modern classics seem better designed to endure rather enjoy, The Shadow of the Wind is unbelievably beautiful from start to finish. It uses flashbacks, paralleled characters, letters and just a hint of meta-fiction to build a world, and a mystery, that slowly and satisfyingly unravels with the turn of every page. Zafón’s novel is wonderfully accessible yet brilliantly detailed, packed with beautiful turns of phrase, delicious quotations and complex characters (I have an awful lot of love for Fermín Romero de Torres!).
Simply put, The Shadow of the Wind is a book just that ignites the imagination in the best of ways and I absolutely adored it! Much like Daniel, I know I’ve found a life-long favourite in the pages of this novel and have already bought a keepsake illustrated copy as well as the next book in my fast-growing Zafón collection!