The Shadow of the Wind

Shadow of the Wind ★★★
Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day”.

shadowI so wanted to love this book, but alas I was left exhausted by page after page of intrigue and misdirection, undone by dense passages describing streets, buildings, and sub-plot upon sup-plot. While there is a colorful cast of characters, make no mistake that Zafόn’s protracted plot is the star feature of The Shadow of the Wind. That is not to say this is a bad book, because it isn’t; in places it is wonderfully charming and whimsical. Zafόn has a delightful humor that comes out in some great passages on the human condition, delivered by the book’s most memorable character – Fermin Romero De Torres.

If you are a fan of Dickens and other 19th century writers of his ilk, then I would imagine this is the book for you. I’m not a fan of Victorian novels which I find too heavy on plot that’s driven by external forces rather than by the choices and behaviors of the characters. I do love a good gothic mystery however, and am a huge fan of Jane Eyre, but the mysteries embedded in The Shadow of the Wind take too long to fully unfold, and by the time they do two things have probably happened: 1) you’ve likely guessed everything way before now (I did and not because I’m good at that) and 2) you’re so exhausted by the entire journey that you just don’t care all that much anymore. By the end, I was crying “Uncle” and couldn’t take one more “twist”. For me, the pay-off isn’t worth the time and effort I put in.

My other disappointment is that “The Cemetery of Lost Books” plays such a small part in this 500 page novel. I was charmed by the idea of such a thing, so much so it’s what drew me to the book in the first place.

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 that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands (The Shadow of the Wind).

If only such a place existed! Then maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty every time I weeded a novel from my library’s collection. I always feel so bad for these non-circulating books that are no longer held or read. I have to believe that someone somewhere would love them, if only I could find that person. Some of these books get saved (at least temporarily) by book sales, but how many end up in land fills? Too many to count I fear, and how much better would it be if they ended up on the labyrinthine shelves of The Cemetery of Lost Books?

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