The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Bea 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.

I think that quotes like that are the reason that so many people seem to agree: The Shadow of the Wind is a book for bibliophiles.

I have to confess, I almost didn’t finish it. When I decided to finish it, I had imaginary blog entries written up in my mind about how much I didn’t like it. But the second half was, for me, much better than the first, and, in the end, I’m glad I persevered, though I wouldn’t give it a whole-hearted recommendation.

This is a book about a novel entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax and how a young boy named Daniel finds the novel in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret library for books abandoned by the outside world. Someone has been systematically destroying copies of Julian Carax’s novels, and Daniel finds that he has the last copy of The Shadow of the Wind in his possession. The novel sparks Daniel’s interest, and he decides to find out more about the life of Julian Carax, which turns to be a dangerous quest full of murder and star-crossed lovers.

So, why didn’t it work for me? I am not sure why, exactly, but this novel, especially the first half, felt kind of distant. It’s written in first person, but I never felt very attached to the main character, never felt like I knew him all that well. I’m not sure whether that was a stylistic choice or whether it was because the book has been translated and, somehow, some connection with the character was lost.

The second half picked up quite a lot, and I finally had all the characters straight and could see what the story was trying to do. I even got involved enough to make some very good guesses about what was going to happen, many of which were right. I finished it on my morning break, and my coworker asked if it was worth it (I’d been complaining about it) and I told her that, in the end, it was. It’s a beautifully imagined tale, but it was very different than what I had expected.

I did not love this book, but I can see why it’s gotten so much praise. I finished it because I had passed the magical “tipping point” – I had invested so much time already that I didn’t want to give up. Someone who is less stubborn than I am might have given up, but she would have missed quite a story in the end.

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