Review: The Shadow of the Wind

Note: a client recommended this, and I no longer remember who. If you are that client, THANK YOU!

The Shadow of the WindThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”

In Barcelona, 1945, a boy named Daniel discovers a book–The Shadow of the Wind. He falls in love. But when he tries to discover more about the author, the mysterious Julian Carax, he learns that someone else is hunting down Carax’s novels…and burning them.

The Shadow of the Wind is complex: the mystery unfolds slowly, unhurriedly, over the first half of the story. Initially I found the pace a little frustrating, but looking back I realize that the slow build is part of what makes this such an excellent read: by the time Daniel realizes what he’s stumbled into, it’s far, far too late to back out–for him, or for the reader.

Even accounting for my copy being a translation, the narrative is undeniably a love-letter to Barcelona: the city and (seemingly) every building in it is described in lush, loving words: a thousand image fragments that rebuild the city in your mind, from the grey, cramped stairwell of a pensión to the glint of copper on the rooftops.

It’s tragic and sexy and shockingly funny–I’m a bit of a hard sell, comedically speaking, but Fermin is a delightful character, one of the best supporting characters I’ve ever seen. Bottom line: you’re a fan of mystery–the old sort of mystery that takes its time, that leads you through a procession of minor but enormously colorful characters, that twists and turns in on itself–you’ll love it.

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