Book four of the 50 in a year challenge is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This book was recommended to me by a family friend and I am thankful as this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. In fact I would go as far to say that apart from The Girl on the Train this is the first thriller/mystery book that I can remember finishing. I normally loose interest after a few chapters. I guess that is one of the good things about this challenge. Once you start a book you kind of have to finish it. The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of Daniel Sempere a young man living in Barcelona. At the beginning of the book Daniel comes across a copy of a book written by the author Julián Carax. This sends him on a path of discovery as he tries to find out who Julián Carax is and why someone is hell bent on destroying all copies of his books.
I have such mixed feelings about this book. When I first sat down and begun reading the book I was spellbound. The book is beautifully written, almost a love letter to literature as well as to Barcelona. The whole idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books caught my imagination and I was sure at the end of chapter one, that this book was going to feature in my top 10 books from this challenge. Unfortunately, I quickly got board. Although the book is beautifully written the stylistic writing becomes tiresome after a while. It also lends itself unfavourably toward cliches. The writing style also made the characters hard to believe and sometimes I just found myself reading for the sake of reading and not really taking in the story. At parts its feels as though the author has swallowed a thesaurus and that is never good. The stylistic writing did lead to some lovely quotes though. The story itself is slow until around 60% of the way through the book. There was a point where I considered starting to read another book in its place however I am glad I stuck with The Shadow of the Wind, the gripping second half made up for the slow first half.
There are many characters in this book and one thing that Carlos Ruiz Zafón does very well is to help the reader keep track of who all the characters are. I was not once was confused about who a person was or what significance they held to Daniel and to his quest. The male characters in the book are all strong however the female characters, not so much. I guess you could argue that Nuria Monfort has a little more depth to her than the other female characters in the book but she is still weak and seems to exist only in the shadows. Daniel himself is likeable and I could relate to him. He is inquisitive, and I liked that. In many ways though Daniel is a walking cliche, he wares his heart on his sleeve and isn’t the most intuitive of people. I personally think the most interesting character was the old hatter. There is much more to this character than meets the eye and I appreciated this. Fermin Romero de Torres is the source of a lot of the humour in this book and at times the comedic lift is really needed. The character is however ridiculously misogynistic and this made me feel uncomfortable, he was unpredictable and some of the jokes that were designed to make me laugh instead just made me cringe. I also just didn’t get Inspector Javier Fumero, the less said about him the better.
The setting of the story is beautiful. This book has made me want to visit Barcelona, a city that was not previously particularly high on places to visit. The book also contains a handy sort of travel guide in the back and I will defiantly use this when I visit the city however I have heard that you can also go on planned The Shadow of the Wind tours in Barcelona. The book also has a Gothic tone to it that really suited post civil-war Barcelona. It got to the point when I was reading this book I was scared of the dark. No book has affected me this much since Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I know a fair bit about the Spanish Civil War but virtually nothing about Franco’s Spain, which is pretty shocking and this book has spurred me on to go and learn more.
I am glad I read this book, and although I found it to be flawed I enjoyed it. It is defiantly not the worst book I could have read. I would also recommend this book to someone, although it was not my cup of tea I know a fair few people who loved this book and it seems to have a large following. If you looking for a beautiful thriller/mystery that will transport you to another world then this may be the book for you. If not, I would maybe give it a miss.
Currently reading and loving The Little Price. I am hoping to get it finished before the end of the month.