The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind

AuthorCarlos Ruiz Zafon

Paperback
Pages: 487 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: January 25, 2005
ISBN-10: 0143034901

Years ago, when I last travelled through Europe, standing in the middle of a bustling bookstore in a Cologne train station, I held a copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind in my hands. I contemplated it, having heard the first rumblings of the novel and its quality. I ended up putting it back on the shelf, not purchasing it. Ever since that day, I regretted not reading it on that trip, and so when it came time to hit the train stations of Europe, I made sure to bring a copy with me.

This time, as my train trundled its slow way through the quaint, rolling hills of northern Slovakia, I was gazing out the window, The Shadow of the Wind resting on the seat beside me.

“Ahh, I’ve read that one,” says the young man across from me, broken English tumbling its way inelegantly through his thick accent. “Museum of Forgotten Books, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, encouraged by his enthusiasm.

“It’s good. A good book,” he said.

The young fellow on the train may have had the name of the fabled Cemetery of Forgotten Books wrong (though it could have been lost in the Slovakian translation), but he certainly got one thing right – The Shadow of the Wind is a good book. A very good book.

Lonely. Heart Warming. Erotic. Horrifying. Charming. Grave. Beautiful. Tragic. Passionate. Each of these words, though vastly different, describe The Shadow of the Wind accurately. A book with layers upon layers, Zafon has you chuckling one moment, terrified the next and stupefied right after. Zafon handles each and every emotion with the utmost care and juggles the reader perfectly, never letting them get overwhelmed, but never quite comfortable with the story either. The result are pages that simple fly by. The problem, though, is that I just didn’t want it to end.

One of the reasons I put The Shadow of the Wind back on the shelf of that German bookstore was that I was worried about the translation. Could a translated work possibly hold the same level of quality as the original language, or that of a novel written natively in English? I had my doubts, but almost immediately upon finally picking up The Shadow of the Wind, my doubts were not only allayed, but completely obliterated. Lucia Graves (daughter of Robert Graves, poet) deserves all the accolades in the world. The rambling prose is buttery smooth, and simply a joy to read. Zafon’s control over language, description and character is preserved by Graves and I can’t imagine how the novel could be any better even in its native language.

The Shadow of the Wind is a novel that challenges its readers, but never overwhelms them. The mysteries of the story always seem tantalizingly close, but still out of reach. Each time the reader thinks they have a grasp on those mysteries hidden in the works of Julian Carax, Zafon pulls the rug out from under them and leaves them wondering what happened. Zafon juggles the reader all the way to the satisfying, melancholy ending. By the time the last page is turned, the characters are no longer words in a novel, but real people – Daniel Sempere, Fermin Romero de Torres, Nuria Monfort, and even (for better or for worse) Francisco Javier Fumero are a part of my life now, and, I’m certain, will stay with me for a very long time.

Certainly the best novel I’ve read this year, The Shadow of the Wind may very well be my favourite novel I’ve ever read. Zafon’s haunting tale of love, lust, revenge and friendship has everything I could want from a novel and more. It’s not often that a novel can actually live up to the hype surrounding it; it’s even less often when a novel can surpass that hype, but that is exactly what The Shadow of the Wind accomplished. I eagerly await the English translation of El Juego del Angel.

Discussion
  • frumiousb October 1, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Interesting. I didn’t like it nearly as much. I loved the first three quarters, but I felt as though the ending didn’t really deliver what it promises. So instead of finding it to be a very good book, I found it a very nice self-indulgence. If that makes any sense.

  • edifanob October 1, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Aidan,

    one more book with “WIND” in the title.
    Best book I read so far in 2008 “THE NAME OF THE WIND”.
    After reading your review I will put “THE SHADOW OF THE WIND” to top of my to-read list. I bought it about 3 months ago.
    I’m really interested in whether “THE SHADOW OF THE WIND” can top “THE NAME OF THE WIND” or not. I know these are two different books. Anyway I will let you know.

    So far thank you for your making my mouth water with your review.

  • Dark Wolf October 2, 2008 at 1:42 am

    It looks like “The Shadow of the Wind” hit another person :)
    I was hit by it so bad, that I feel now that I have to read it again. And I will certainly look forward to “El Juego del Angel”, which seems that will be published in Romania at the beginning of the next year.

  • Larry October 2, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I guess I could read the English translation sometime to see how it compares, but it really is a beautiful, beautiful read in Spanish. El Juego del Ángel is even better in some aspects, albeit it is a much, much darker novel.

  • aidan October 2, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the translation, Larry.

  • Ben October 2, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I’ve been meaning to read this one as well. Time! I need more TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ana October 6, 2008 at 4:59 am

    “Certainly the best novel I’ve read this year, The Shadow of the Wind may very well be my favourite novel I’ve ever read”

    I am so glad you liked it as much as I did! I knew it! ; )

    It is on my top 5 best books ever. I was awed by it and I have been waiting for the sequel ever since I read it.

  • Murphy Monkey October 9, 2008 at 3:39 am

    What a lovely introduction/review to the book!
    This new interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafon might interest you, where he talks about (amongst other things) translation, and his decision to write the Angel’s Game as a sort of prequel to Shadow of the Wind.

    http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/als/carlos_ruiz_zafon_shadow_of_the_wind.html

  • heather (errantdreams) October 10, 2008 at 9:54 am

    AGH! You’re making me desperately want to read this, and I don’t have the time! *sob*

  • aidan October 10, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Heather,

    The Shadow of the Wind is the type of novel that you make room for….

    :)

  • Erik October 10, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I bought The Shadow Of The Wind at a library used book sale a few months ago, I also bought about 30 others so I didn’t get around to reading it. I looked at your review and decided to read it this week. It was amazing. I am glad I did glance at your review, otherwise I wouldn’t have got around to it for another few months. I would heartily recommend it to everyone. Thanks Aidan.

  • edifanob October 14, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I finished The Shadow of the Wind today.

    I’m so glad I read it. What a wonderful book.

    This is definitely on of the best books I read in my life!!!

  • […] You can find my full review HERE. […]

  • Li January 4, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I’ve always seen The Shadow of the Wind on the shelves whenever I’m at the bookstore but it was only after reading your review a few months ago that I finally picked got a hold of a copy (Christmas, yay!) and started reading it. And I’m so glad that I did read it; I totally agree with all of your comments about the book, it’s a book that truly grabbed my attention and imagination in such a way that I don’t think I’ve felt since…I think it was Atonement :) So thanks for the review! :)

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    I downloaded a sample of this book on my kindle a while ago, but I haven’t quite gotten around to reading it yet. I love your review~my interest has been piqued again!

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  • Karen Holden, Producer, BBC May 19, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Hi there all fans of The Shadow of the Wind – would you like to put a question to Carlos Ruiz Zafon himself about The Shadow of the Wind? BBC World Book Club is interviewing him on Thursday 3rd June and would love to hear from you. If you could email me at karen.holden@bbc.co.uk as soon as you can with your question about the book (anything – doesn’t have to be particularly clever!), we can either arrange for you to talk to the man himself, or have our presenter put your question to Mr Zafon for you. Then you get to hear your question on BBC World Service Radio. The programme will air on 3rd July 20.00hrs on the BBC World Service. Please get in touch soonest! All best Karen Holden, Producer, BBC World Book Club

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