Radikal Readings: Shadow of the Wind

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I always find it difficult to write about my favorite things, not for a lack of words, rather, the need to do it justice. For that exact reason it has taken me longer than it should to write about my favorite book – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

“…few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

While it isn’t the first book that found its way into my heart, its certainly left the deepest mark. It’s the only novel I have read more than twice, and in matter of days the first time I did. Like the quote above says, I find myself returning time and time again. I begin to miss the characters, Daniel Sempre (the protagonist), Fermin Romero de Torres, and most of all Julian Carax, who my heart ached for and fell in love with. It as if they were old friends that I long to reconnect with.

Every time I return I am instantly transported to the 1940s, post-war Barcelona. Zafon’s previous career as a script writer in Los Angeles lends to his enthralling story telling and prose. It’s descriptive yet not verbose, instead it reads like an epic film. However, with so many characters and plot twists, it’s better left in book form so that the reader can build the world Zafon creates with their own imagination. In fact, Zafon has stated that while he’s received numerous requests to turn the book into a film, he doesn’t see it happening: I think it is good that novels stay novels, and that there’s no need at all for everything to become a movie, a TV show, a video game, a kiddie meal, or a licensed toy of the month. Nothing can tell a story, convey a world, and render characters with the intensity, depth, and magic that literature allows. The Shadow of the Wind will be always first and foremost a book, and proudly so.

It’s an engaging noir that’s gloomy and bloody, filled with young love, lust, torture, and mystery. It echoes some of Zafon’s favorite authors, like Dumas and Dickens. A book about a book and great readers that turns into something so much more. It’s a gothic labyrinth that makes you forget about the real world as you delve into the story further and further.

The book is the first in a series of four, including The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven and the yet to be released final book that will tie all four stories together. All three are very different stories with characters and a love of books, literature, and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books that link them.

I still feel as though I can’t give this novel and absolute beautiful writing enough due. I can however, give it the highest praise any writer can give a novel in my humble opinion – I wish I had written it. Oh how I long to be able to say I had written that gorgeous prose that flowed from the characters which etched their way into my heart.

Sadly, for me, I didn’t write it. Yet, I love that I can always return to the shadowy streets of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Barcelona.

 

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