“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Shadow of the Wind is the second book to come from my Easter Restocking of the TBR Pile (actually a Shelf now I’m back at university). I picked up the sequel, The Prisoner of Heaven, and read about this first book on the blurb, and it sounded amazing. And so here we are.
In a post-war Barcelona, Daniel Sempere is taken to the labyrinthine Cemetery of Forgotten Books (I know, right? That name on its own would have been enough to make me read it) where he picks out a rare book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. But there is someone hunting every copy of this book down, stopping at nothing to burn all traces of Julian Carax’s exitence for ever.
That was a very melodramatic description, I know, but The Shadow of the Wind is a very melodramatic book. It has everything from madness to incest, passing through forbidden love, violence and corruption on the way. It is, in short, a novel that Wilkie Collins would be proud of, and in fact I’m sure that anyone who liked The Woman in White will love this novel.
Sadly, however, I was not a massive fan of The Woman in White, and therefore I was less than overwhelmed by The Shadow of the Wind. It started off well, with that wonderful passage about books that is my Quote for the Day. But it was less about books than I had expected it to be, and more about the people behind the books: Lain Coubert, the devil, who bears a strong resemblance to V from V for Vendetta, and a very Javert-y police inspector named Fumero, who says things like “We’ll meet again,” at which point the Les Mis Voice in my head (because everyone has one of those) starts singing:
You’ve hungered for this all your life.
Take your revenge; how right you should kill with a knife.
I’m not entirely sure why I started to lose interest about halfway through, but I did. The writing is quite lovely, lyrical and sad and somehow sepia-tinted, although occasionally the dialogue is stilted and over-formal (I don’t know if this is a lost-in-translation thing or a genuine failing). It’s also quite slow-moving, although I don’t usually find that a problem. It just wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I suppose, and that spoiled it for me.
On a happier note, tomorrow (the 23rd April) is World Book Night (as well as Shakespeare’s possible birthday). I will be handing out 20 copies of Alexander McCall Smith’s The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency to unsuspecting members of the public – how will you celebrate?