Kelly's Reviews > The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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's review
Jul 02, 07

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction, did-not-finish, goth-goth-baby, 21st-century, partialprejudicedandignorantopinion
Recommended for: gothic/Romantic lit freaks
Read in June, 2007

Trying too hard. I wonder if I hadn't read this right after Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell if I would have liked it better. They were both trying to pay homage to the gothic/Romantic era writers, except that Strange and Norrell was brilliant, and this one was.. eh. I appreciated what the author was trying to do, but he didn't do it well enough to keep me reading. Yes, Romantic lit is full of cliche, but the thing is to do it in an intriguing way and with enough wit to keep your audience interested. This book did not have that balance. It had the formula, it just didn't execute things well enough, in my opinion.

To be fair, that could be because this book was originally in Spanish. It could have lost a lot in translation. I know it lost something, actually, because some of the sentences are rather awkwardly phrased. But Arturo Perez-Reverte's gothic-esque novels were also in Spanish, and they still had their magic in translation. So, I don't forgive this guy enough to finish the book. Which I didn't, by the way. Got about halfway through because I was hoping it would get better, but it was still not grabbing me, so. Onto the next!
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 51) (51 new)


message 1: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen Kautt I concur with every point mentioned. I had high hopes for this novel and while it maintained my interest by and large..I was still dissapointed.
As you say, on to the next.


Kelly It's unfortunate, but not enough to keep reading. I hope your next choice is more satisfying!


jzhunagev Kelly, for one thing, I like you read this book after I'm done with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, though I liked both books.
nice review by the way... ^_^


Kelly Thank you, that's very nice of you to say. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, I just couldn't get into it myself.


Kelly Oh, had you not heard of Strange & Norrell? Oh my! How has this happened?? Please do mark it down, its absolutely wonderful, one of my all-time favorites. I think you would love it as well- you enjoy Victorian lit and Jane Austen and fairy tales, yes? The book is all of that and /brilliant/.


Matthew Kelly,
I enjoyed your well-reasoned review and have bumped Strange & Norrell up my "to read" list. I'm not a huge fan of gothic-lit novels per se but I really connected with Shadow of the Wind. Part of what stood out for me was the father-son dynamic--from the very first chapter in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and throughout the book, I bought into that relationship and it elevated the story to a different level (sort of a Spanish novel version of the movie "Big Fish"). Agreed that it's far from perfect and some of the issues may relate to translation but I look forward to Strange & Norrell and hope your next read is more satisfying.


message 7: by Salma (new)

Salma Kelly-

Everyone's been raving about this book so much that I felt like a stupidhead when I couldn't get into it for my book club. Pretty much for the reasons you mentioned. Glad I'm not alone! I definitely agree with your point about translation- I think that's a big part of why the book maybe was not working for me. I just really did not like the dialogue at all, and the characters were just really really annoying and pretentious (though I kinda liked the narrator). The thing is, the characters didn't seem genuine somehow- it was almost as if the author saw a good mystery movie once and tried to get a screenplay into book form without thinking much about psychological depth of characters. And the whole women being femme fatales thing irritated the hell out of me.

But you know what- I just couldn't make it past page 100, so, who am I to talk?



Kelly Salma- I completely agree with you- its just been done better elsewhere, in my opinion. Nothing to see here, at least for me.

But oh, no, Chandra! It is all a matter of taste, of course. That's one of the wonderful things about books, the personal way they speak to us. Just because it didn't happen to speak to me or Salma, doesn't mean that you should feel that way!




message 9: by Salma (new)

Salma Chandra- I agree with Kelly- it's like music- as an example, I personally can listen to Dylan for hours and hours- my friends would scream in that same scenario. Does that mean he sucks? nope- it just means that he's not everyone's cup of tea.

sorry- I'm always bringing Bob into the conversation.


message 10: by Salma (new)

Salma lol- I'm a lawyer and even I don't think I'll ever convince Abigail to like Wuthering Heights.


message 11: by Kelly (last edited May 04, 2009 07:55PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kelly And to prove that point about books that we are struck by once more, I'm GR friends with Abigail, and I have a GR friend who loves, loves, loves Wuthering Heights to no end and will defend it to the death. And me? I used to love it, now fondly laugh at it and indulge in it, depending on my mood.

If you're interested in Spain, Chandra, I would definitely recommend you check out the Perez-Reverte novels- he loves his country and he isn't shy about showing it. I also read a book about medieval Spain and its religious issues you might enjoy- the author is incredibly passionate about her Spanish "memory gardens"- it's entitled Ornament of the World. I had my issues with it, but its level of passion was not one of them.


message 12: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Well well well, I've got to chime in here. It's rare that I disagree with Kelly, but I loved Shadow and the Wind. I also loved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I don't think I could compare them. But I also read them far apart!


message 13: by Rebecca (last edited May 04, 2009 11:35PM) (new)

Rebecca "I have a GR friend who loves, loves, loves Wuthering Heights to no end and will defend it to the death"

Oh, I tend to be love or hate about everything. I ought to get them tattooed on my knuckles, would add eloquence to my first shaking.

Do you like North and South, Abigail?


message 14: by Kelly (last edited May 05, 2009 04:54AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kelly I didn't mean to call you out on it or anything, Rebecca! I suppose I could have been slightly more subtle about how I described your feelings on it, sorry...

Hi Abigail! It is interesting that you mention that you're being called out for your anti-Romantic stance... and yet you loved Twilight, a novel that ah, definitely fits into that genre, and I couldn't stand a page of the damned thing. See! We do not fit so neatly into such boxes! *soapboxes, or something* (Also, I would like to see your Twilight and North and South reviews! Even if you and I disagree, I'm sure we would be able to do it with a minimum of hair pulling and claws going for the eyes. :))

Lori- I do feel my experience of this book was ruined by having read such a masterpiece of mood making and world building right beforehand. Believe me, I wanted to love a book that had a place entitled the Cemetary of Forgotten Books, too! But it felt like the author had a good idea and then got way way too impressed with it, to the detriment of both story and mood. Ah, well.

I'd be interested to hear someone's review of Mary Barton. I feel that my first foray into Gaskell may have given me a representation of her that is maybe not entirely fair, and I'd like to try her again. I'm uncertain of whether to do it with that novel or Wives and Daughters, though.





message 15: by Salma (new)

Salma My review might be the next one you all get on Mary Barton- that's been on my list forever! I think the mills and class struggles were on her mind a lot- North and South and Barton are very similar in plot and theme, right?


message 16: by Salma (new)

Salma You are? THat's great- how do you like it? Tell me if you find Polly sweet but incredibly annoying as well...lol.

Abigail- I hope I didn't offend you with my WH comment. I was just kidding around.


message 17: by Salma (new)

Salma I've got to read Old-Fashioned Girl again. I remember I couldn't stand Tom- I thought he was a sexist pig. (though he looks pretty good on the cover of my book. :-))


message 18: by Salma (new)

Salma That's good- I wouldn't want you to think I'm a Goodreads gossip. :-D


Sarah B. I just finished the book last night and sat down to write a review -- and you wrote exactly what I wanted to say! I couldn't agree with you more. And I really wanted to like this book...

Also, thanks for the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell recommendation. I'm going to get a copy!


Kelly The sharpest disappointments come from high expectations, don't they? Ah well. I'm glad that you're going to try JS&MN, that one's one of my favorites. Hope you like it!


message 21: by Keith (new)

Keith Hehe, I'm reading this book at the moment and I'm struggling. Has anyone read the Historian by Elizabeth Kostova? Well the two books seem the same to me. Dull characters void of humour and it seems to be taking itself a wee bit too seriously.

Just finished the Master and Margarita, now that's the mysticism that I was looking for, read that instead of The Shadow of the Wind.


Sylver Dull characters? I'm sure you read the English version. I have never read more real, fascinating characters. To each his/her own.


message 23: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited May 10, 2010 01:04PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) Kelly, I love your reviews, and have come to trust them mightily! I had given some considerable thought to acquiring this novel. I am so glad that I read your review first. Your reference to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was telling as it is one of my favorite novels by a contemporary author and was just brilliant (and destined to become a 'classic')! Similarly, I also tried to read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian several months ago and gave up in disgust. One or two failed books a year is all that I can handle. Thanks, Kelly! Cheers! Chris

P.S. If you haven't already read it; run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and acquire and read Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters -- a simply superb novel! And don't buy into the whole "but its unfinished!" That's bunk, it is 'finished.' One would have to be 'dead' not to fully understand how it ended! ;-)


message 24: by Kelly (last edited May 11, 2010 08:27AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kelly What an awesome compliment- I am a bit nervous of making you miss out on a good book, but frankly, not that nervous. There are enough 'eh' books out there that if you've read one, you've read them all! And if you read and loved JS&MN, you got everything that's in here and more.

On Gaskell: To be honest with you, I wasn't particularly excited about my last Gaskell experience, which was North and South, so that's made me hesitate to read anything else of hers. Perhaps I'll be in the mood to try again one of these days though!


message 25: by Jan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jan De la Rosa No, no, it's not just you! The plot and "beauty" it's very very weak in Spanish as well. Mind u, I finished it because I'm in the middle of a rally to "not put anything down until done" phase, but it can be easily passed as very overrated prose as a whole.


Kelly Great review Kelly! It's always a pleasure when I can readily agree with my GR book homies. I think it was a forced effort as well, or as you said, it could just be the transition. Alas, until I am a serious nosy-body I won't know unless I hear it from the horses mouth.


Kelly Thanks for the compliment! This book definitely isn't bad- I just think there are many others like it. I don't see anything of the extraordinary about it that people seem to see.


Hirondelle I did not read this in Spanish, but in Portuguese, which is a translation which is relatively straightforward. I did not like it either, and i do not think it was because of the translation.

I read it as you did, hommage to old fashioned gothic novels and book love while "doing" the spanish civil war. But the plot just did not work for me (view spoiler) and I dunno, it just felt contrived on other details as well. Mind you, maybe I am just contrary, I did not like Strange&Norrel either.


Natalie Tonnesen Please finish it!


Kelly No thank you! I'm good!


message 31: by Dan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dan I knew within thirty pages that I wasn't going to like this book, but someone had lent me their copy, so I finished it through sheer bloody-mindedness. Rest assured, it didn't change dramatically halfway through, so you didn't miss much :)


Kelly Glad to hear it. I didn't really have much of an impulse to look back and see as it was, but that certainly helps reinforce the decision not to!


Kelly Not finishing the book was your loss. Maybe give it some time and start again? It's amazing!

I've already deleted my first few responses to this, but as I can't think of one that won't end in a flame war that will bore me far too soon, I'll just go with the most polite and, perhaps appropriately, literary one that springs to mind: I would prefer not to.


message 34: by Gino (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gino Read it in Spanish! Maybe the English translation is not that good. The Spanish version is awesome. One of the best books in recent years. I think books are appreciated differently depending upon time, place and circumstances. Don' t you think so?


Hirondelle Gino, translation is not going to make it less contrived, fix levels of goeymelodrama and plot depending on coincidences. I did not read it in English and this WAS not, IMO and by my personal standards a good book. You liked it, great, but geesh, no, some people might judge books differently.

(this book and Name of the wind. Though ok, Name of the Wind even more. I can not understand why but the theory that it´s the "of the Wind" part of the name causing this is unavoidable)


Kelly Unfortunately, I can't read Spanish, so I'll never know if you're correct, Gino. It sounds like based on Hirondelle's critique that it probably won't make that much of ad ifference, though. And like I said, I've read several other Spanish novels in translation and liked them so I'm not sure why this one would be so different.

Hirondelle- I think you might be onto something with your "wind" critique. There should be some sort of warning posted about it for authors. :)


Marcos Reyes-Estrada I agree that maybe the translation to english was the issue. I read this book in spanish and I have to say that is one of the best books that I have ever read.


Kelly As I said, I'll never (or it seems unlikely, anyway!) know if that's the issue or not. I'm glad you had such a good experience with it. That's great.


Nicholas Carpenito This is probably my favorite book, but I'd agree the middle was a bit tedious. Shame you didn't finish it though, great ending in my opinion.


message 40: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah Wingo I know so many people who loved this book, but I was so bored by it. Glad I'm not the only one.


Kelly Yeah, I barely remember anything about this book anymore except my feeling of "meh". I didn't hate it, just felt it could have been better.


Heather Coulter So funny! I bought Strange and Norell when it first came out because it sounded like something I would LOVE... and it bored me to tears. So far I'm hooked on this book, though! Hehehe, to each their own, I guess :)


Kelly I guess so!


message 44: by Drea (new)

Drea Wonderful to see someone call out Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell. Sheer brilliance and sadly lost to many. THAT book would make an incredible movie!


Kelly It is going to become one! A miniseries, I think, for the BBC.


jingles Nancy, I have Cat & Mouse up for my next book in the Alex Cross series.

How did you like Dead or Alive?


message 47: by Dave (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Bowman Well, Mr. Kelly, after re-reading a few pages from this book and (btw, thank you) starting Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I must say I know what you very much lack: a child's heart. Candour. You cannot find in a book what you haven't got it yourself already even in a smaller amount.
Good luck !


Kelly What? I can't even... Really? You know what. Never mind. Since you couldn't even be bothered to get my gender right, I think I'm not too bothered about making much of an effort to respond to your condescending commentary and clearly penetrating diagnosis.

Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


message 49: by Dave (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Bowman Oh, my bad, you will excuse me I hope, I was mislead by your looks. I must say though that I rather cannot understand what on Earth cam you find similar or even comparable between these two books, and after about 8 percent of Mr. Norell I still maintain my position. I might be judged for making penetrating diagnosises, but I have a purpose with that. Ergo - your reply.


message 50: by Emma (new) - rated it 1 star

Emma 100 times yes, Warwick.


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