Saturday, January 30, 2010

Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Shadow of the Wind)

In the summer of 1945, 10-year old Daniel Sempere left the labyrinthine passageways of an ancient and secret library with a copy of The Shadow of the Wind, written by an unheard-of Julian Carax. In Daniel's quest to find the author's other works, he discovers that he may have in his possession Carax's only remaining novel in existence because a faceless man has been scouring Barcelona and Paris for copies of the author's books and burning them, as if to erase all traces of Carax. This strange man goes by the name Lain Coubert, the devil in The Shadow of the Wind, come alive to torment those who have read from its pages. Daniel becomes more than just a reader; he gets caught up in an intricate story of romance, friendship, betrayal and revenge. With the help of a beggar-turned-bibliographic adviser, and with the maniacal Inspector Francisco Javier Fumero and the devil Lain Coubert hot on his trail, Daniel puts together the pieces of Carax's past.

It's suspense fiction with a very Gothic feel to it: dark romance mystery with 2 or 3 femmes fatales and a touch of surrealism.The beginning was very engaging and I was hooked from the opening sentence:
"I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time."
What can I say. It's my personal image of heaven described in the first five pages.

The sinuous subplots and cast of characters that goes on and on like a litany of obscure saints ensured that the book would be a page-turner, although at some point I had to go back instead of forward because it had become quite confusing. The novel was riddled with metaphors and similes that I felt were a bit excessive sometimes and in consequence mildly distracting, but for the most part the literary devices were helpful in creating a mood, especially that of humor, as delivered by Fermin Romero de Torres' character.
"Watch it, some of these would sink their teeth in you if they could, to become young again[...] Age makes them all look as meek as lambs, but there are as many sons of bitches in here as out there, or more. Because these are the ones who have lasted and buried the rest. Don't feel sorry for them. Go on, begin with the ones in the corner-- they look toothless." (Fermin Romero de Torres urging Daniel to go and make inquiries from patients at a hospice in Sta. Lucia)
On the whole, it was a very entertaining read-- the unraveling of the literary plot goes by at a suspenseful speed, and you put down the book feeling satisfied.

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