‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruis Zafón is a book that has been on my ‘Probably Won’t Buy But Might Borrow From Someone Someday’ book list for a very long time. As I am still in possession of my sister’s Kindle, I finally read it this week. Set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, a young boy named Daniel comes across a novel by the mysterious author Julian Carax called ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ in the Cemetery of Lost Books. The story of what happened to Carax slowly unravels through the book.
The setting of Barcelona in the 1950s is evocatively described in Zafón’s lyrical style of writing. I thought the naivety in Daniel’s character as a young man was very well written but I didn’t find many of the other characters particularly likeable. The themes of the novel are very diverse – it’s almost as though Zafón has tried to fit everything into one book: romance, detective story, historical novel, gothic drama, thriller… this produces mixed results. While it made the story seem very rich, I think intertwining so many different genres can also be a bit tiresome and made the complex narrative more difficult to follow.
Overall, I would say that there are very few faults with Zafón’s writing other than that it can be occasionally a little too flowery at times. However, I thought the main problem with the book was the way in which the mystery was ‘resolved’ at the end through an extremely long letter – if the information had been revealed through a more sophisticated plot device, it would have been much more satisfying to read.
If anyone else has ‘The Shadow on the Wind on their ‘Probably Won’t Buy But Might Borrow From Someone Someday’ book list, I would suggest that it remains there rather than being moved to the ‘Must Buy As Soon As Possible’ list. It contains some beautifully written prose but the structure of the plot could have been improved. If anyone has read the sequels, I would love to know what you thought of them…