Saturday, 20 November 2010
The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Oh Shadow of the Wind how you have tortured me so...
This book has probably taken me longer to read than any other. I can't actually remember when I started reading it but it was some time ago...as in months ago and I finished it a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea why but every time I picked it up I'd read a page or two and just not want to carry on. Sometimes I can take a while to get into books but that doesn't really slow my reading pace down so I've no idea what happened here. Eventually I did get into it and then finished off most of the book in a couple of weeks. Would probably have been less than that had I not been in Florida for a week. Anyway, I finished it so now some thoughts:
The story is set in 20th century Spain where the civil war is still relatively fresh in the minds of many of the residents of Barcelona. There's a certain air of people recovering from that and getting used to life after the war. The Shadow of the Wind is a book...yes we're within the story now, it's a book about a book. It's a book found by young Daniel Sempere when his father takes him to the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' so that he can choose one book to take care of. He finds Shadow of the Wind, doesn't like the look of it and picks 'New Moon' instead. The rest of the book is about how the author of Shadow of the Wind finds this out and hunts Sempere down and kills him for being such a smacktard.
...it's not, I made that up.
Well, just after the finding of the book. He doesn't choose some teenage girl's inter-species breeding extravaganza, he sticks with Julian Carax.
Naturally he rather enjoys the book and wants to find out more about Senor Carax but nobody seems to know much about him. The story from here is about Daniel's investigations into Julian Carax. This seems rather mundane for a book of 500 pages but I assure you it isn't. Daniel's investigations lead him to meeting various different people whom shape his life in various ways so really the story is as much about his life during the time of his investigations as the investigations themselves. Obviously I don't want to give things away but there's a much more sinister plot going on than first seems as a couple of undesirable figures come up along the way and the story becomes much more than just a case of "literary curiosity".
One thing that I was concerned about is that this book is a translation; it was originally written in Spanish so despite the fact I'm sure every care was taken to make sure it still flowed and came across as it was intended I was still wary of how it might be. I'd probably need to read the Spanish version to really know if it does but my Spanish isn't so hot nowadays. Even if it doesn't I wasn't reading things thinking they sounded wrong or hadn't been phrased properly so err...good job Lucia Graves! (the translator)
I think something I always look for in a story and what often gets me hooked on it is well written characters whom you can sympathise with or thoroughly dislike if appropriate and Shadow of the Wind has them in abundance. When I did, eventually, get into the book I really wanted everything to end well for Daniel and I wanted Fumero to die in a horrific manner. When hearing Julian Carax's back story I really hoped that things had turned out alright for him. Something I find when I'm watching or reading something I have done before is that when things are about to go wrong I always hope that it'll be different despite knowing it won't be and I think this shows that you're invested in the characters and their fortunes and it's something I found happening with Carax's story; you kind of know to an extent how it ends but can't help wishing it would go differently and this or that wouldn't happen the way it did etc. I think I'm rambling somewhat but my point is that the characters are really well written and it makes you really eager to find out what happens to them next.
As I said previously the story itself doesn't sound like the most action-packed roller coaster ride and I suppose it isn't but what it is, is clever with lots of little twists and turns and different threads tying together so there's a lot of times I found myself hurriedly reading through a chapter or two to get to some revelation I felt was imminent which, despite the fact I then have a slight tendency to not properly read descriptive passages in an effort to find out what's going on, I think is a positive.
Let's have a go at quantitatively scoring this then...
I think is the strongest aspect of the book and it was through my attachment to them mainly that I, eventually, got really into reading the story. I wouldn't mind reading another story about a couple of them as they made for very interesting characters and so for this, it receives 8/10.
I kind of went over this already but yeah, once it gets going it's very intriguing and I found myself desperately wanting to find out 'what it all meant'. I think this was more down to the cleverness of the plot then the actual story itself, I think I was still wondering just what the main story was going to be when I realised that this was it but all the same the little twists and turns do make for interesting reading and so it shall have 5/10.
I feel like I might be being a little harsh on that mind.
I can't think of anything else specific to focus on so just some other things. I really liked the idea of the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' and it'd be really cool to be able to visit such a place and find a book that effectively, doesn't exist anymore. I didn't really touch on this before which I know is terrible writing on my part but there's a fair dash of romance thrown in although it's far from being fairytale stuff and even that has its own element of intrigue to it. Here, have 7/10 for things I can't classify.
I have a ridiculous scoring system, don't ask me how I got to this but Shadow of the Wind ends with a grand total of 7.1/10. It's well worth a read, take no notice of my taking forever to get into it I'm sure that's just me being me.