A character in the book says “that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.” How very appropriate that I read this book, after my rant over the weekend.
This book is the first in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I will admit, it had been sitting on one of my many TBR piles for well over a year. I never got further than the first page or two, and some other book always issued a Siren’s call I could not resist, and The Shadow of the Wind fell aside, forgotten, until the next time I tried to read it. This time, I was determined to finish the book, or at least get past the first or second page.
I am so glad I did. It is labeled as something of a modern-day gothic story, but through some of the shady characters, I was actually reminded more of classic Film Noir from Hollywood’s heyday. The book is almost timeless, because there are so few mentions throughout of “modern” conveniences such as cars, televisions, and telephones, that when these objects are mentioned, it seems as if you have had a pail of ice water thrown on you, so great is the shock. I kept picturing dresses with bustles and a time period more akin to the mid-1800’s as opposed to the mid-1900’s. Granted, there were numerous mentions of the Spanish Civil War, but even that seemed almost an aside, not too completely significant to the story itself.
Daniel is taken by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books when he is ten. Daniel’s mother had passed away sometime before, and Daniel had woken early, upset because he was forgetting what she looked like. While in the massive “cemetery,” Daniel is told he can have one book, any book, but he must always take care of it and never give it away. Daniel finds a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by a mysterious author named Julian Carax. It seems there are no other copies of his books remaining, as some mysterious, possibly evil, person has been going around, burning them for years. As Daniel grows older, he becomes somewhat obsessed with finding out more about this mysterious author and what happened to him and the books. Along the way, he meets a great many people, some of them jovial and helpful, some of them downright nasty and evil. Some of these become friends, but almost all of them have a story that relates to the mysterious author.
The book is so beautifully written, I have managed to finish this very very quickly. I am anxious to read the second and third books in the series, to see how they all relate and tie together. I love books like this one and it’s in the top five of books I have read thus far this year.