The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves.
Originally written in Spanish in 2001 and translated to English in 2004, The Shadow of the Wind is the story of a young boy living in Barcelona in the period following the Spanish Civil War. Fantastically written, I was completely absorbed and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys cultural or historical fiction. It is unsurprising that this book topped the Spanish bestseller list for weeks, and dominated a top spot in the international bestseller list once translated into English.
In Barcelona, there is a place where books are laid to rest: the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is ten years old when his father takes him there. He is allowed to adopt one book and must tell no-one the secret of the Cemetery. The book Daniel picks is The Shadow of the Wind by a Julián Carax. In his quest to learn more about the author, Daniel sparks a series of events that will shape his life, twisting it around that of Julián Carax. Carax’s novels are impossible to get hold of, and are often burnt when found. Within the first pages, you are introduced to a shady character who is stalking Daniel and threatening him for possession of the book – his name is Laín Corbert, and in Daniel’s book, that is the name of the devil. As Daniel seeks to find the truth, he is accompanied by his good friend Fermín, spy turned tramp turned bookseller turned witty, women-obsessed friend. Fermín provides assistance and rather humorous attempts at wooing women throughout the book, often lightening up otherwise sinister situations.
This is a story within a story, about the power of words and the seduction of the imagination. It is about coming of age, keeping secrets, discovering things about oneself, temptation and running away. The author manages to weave an intricate tale, with the past shadowing the present in a complex whirl of information and misinformation. At some points, the plot is so thick with secrets that you have no idea which way the story will go. With distinct Gothic undertones, the tale can lean towards the melodramatic, with well-written thrills and fantastic descriptions of places that had me reaching for my computer to book flights to Barcelona myself!
Be warned, at 560 odd pages, it is a meaty read, but it is definitely worth it. And honestly, it didn’t feel as long when I was reading it!
Written by Bea Harvie
Photo credit: enrichphoto.co.uk
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham