Warwick's Reviews > The Shadow Of The Wind

The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
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did not like it
bookshelves: fiction, spain, barcelona

Dire. The writing is along Dan Brown lines, with flowery metaphors mixed until they become meaningless. From page 1: "My father sighed, hiding behind the sad smile that followed him like a shadow all through his life." How can he be hiding behind it if it's following him? Then on the next page someone is described as having "vulturine features", but in the following sentence he has an "aquiline gaze". This sloppiness is everywhere.

The whole thing feels like it desperately wants be seen as some kind of profound parable, but the only result is that the characters are just implausible symbols. They are too bland even to hate – unlike the book itself, which I loathed.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 20, 2012 – Shelved as: spain
December 20, 2012 – Shelved as: barcelona
December 20, 2012 – Shelved as: fiction
December 20, 2012 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-50 of 53 (53 new)


message 1: by Lulu (new)

Lulu Dan Brown - you nailed it on the head! The writing was deplorable, even for a "Gothic romance."


Kalliope Full of clichés too.


Warwick Yeah, it was really bad.


Kestrel Totally agree with Warwick. My feeling (admittedly based on no hard evidence) is that this book may well have been a masterpiece in it's Spanish? original but the translation is stilted, wooden and confusing in places.


Robin Totally agree !


Warwick Well to be fair Louisa, a lot of people do disagree with me! Let me know what you think if you do give it a go.


message 7: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala It was disappointing for me too, both the writing and the story itself, so I doubt if much blame can be laid at the translator's door. But many of my real life friends loved this book. A mystery more complex than the Shadow of the Wind.


Kalliope Not as bad as Dan Brown but on that line. I read it in the original.


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) I read it in Spanish. It's not the translation, it's the original text. Dire. And that comes from a professional translator myself.


Warwick Good to know! Thanks Orinoco – and please say hi to Uncle Bulgaria for me.


message 11: by Garima (new)

Garima How can he be hiding behind it if it's following him?

He must be running in circles ;)


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Garima wrote: "How can he be hiding behind it if it's following him?

He must be running in circles ;)"


That's the impression I got...he had written himself into a corner and couldn't get out. If you have more than 300 pages and haven't found an ending, you've bitten off more than you can chew. It's time to go back and edit, mercilessly.


message 13: by Sherry (new)

Sherry I kept thinking, "The emperor has no clothes," while listening to the audible version for my book club. I made lists of all the stupidities, the author manipulations for the sake of plot. Glad to know there are others who see through the hype.


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Sherry wrote: "I kept thinking, "The emperor has no clothes," while listening to the audible version for my book club. I made lists of all the stupidities, the author manipulations for the sake of plot. Glad to k..."

Sherry, that's exactly what I was thinking as I read Warwick's review and composed my own!! "But," said the child,"the emperor is not wearing any clothes!!"

Thank goodness for think-for-yourself readers!!


message 15: by Tania (last edited Apr 28, 2014 07:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tania Santos Hi, about the part from page 1, I have to start by saying I've never read it in English, but actually in Spanish. If your translated version says: "My father sighed, hiding behind the sad smile that followed him like a shadow all through his life." then it's very poorly translated: it's not behind in Spanish but: "My father sighed, leaning on that sad smile which followed him like a shadow throughout his life".
Page 2: A little man with predatory bird features and silvery hair opened the door. His eagle glance rested on me, inscrutable." That's what's written in Spanish.

By these examples, I can only imagine the rest of the translation and why you're complaining.


Warwick Wow. That's an amazing example of how poor translation can ruin a book for me. That changes everything! Thanks Tania. I really have no excuse because I read Spanish quite well, or at least I did back when I read this, so it's sheer laziness.


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) And it's not just the translation. Like Wagner, Ruiz Zafón doesn't seem to know when's enough. It goes on, and on...and on, rather like those old serial novels of the Sandokan type. By the time the end came, I was sick of it, and only finished reading the book out of sheer cussedness. Whatever happened to editors?


message 18: by Dave (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Bowman Well,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 !


message 19: by Per80 (last edited Nov 19, 2014 10:57AM) (new)

Per80 Warwick, I thought vulturine and aquiline would be about the same - hook nosed, beaky. Makes sense to me. Anyway, instead of slagging off one of the most successful of its type, why don't people come up with titles that they think might better serve the purpose. I liked the dark atmosphere of the book. What others should I read?


Warwick It could be argued. But to me seeing the two words so close together just made me feel that he didn't really understand what they meant. Fair point though on the recommendations…what about Umberto Eco? Foucault's Pendulum perhaps? He has a similar kind of Latin sensibility, half-bookish, half-mystical, but backed up with a lot more thought and erudition, and of course in prose terms Eco is a far better writer.


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Warwick wrote: "It could be argued. But to me seeing the two words so close together just made me feel that he didn't really understand what they meant. Fair point though on the recommendations…what about Umberto ..."

Vulturine: like a vulture's beak
Aquiline: like an eagle's beak

Similar, yes, grosso modo--but rather different.


Lynda Absolutely agree Warwick. What was the hype about?


message 23: by Edo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Edo I respect your opinion but I'm comlplied to reply...
English Warick, english... to follow: it doesn't mean it must be behind.. it just needs to cross through the same route.. and beside it's a sad smile, a poetic metahor, not a three-dimensinal object.


message 24: by Edo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Edo *Warwick


Warwick Thanks, I understand the metaphor, I just think it's a clumsy one.


message 26: by Manny (new)

Manny Garima wrote: "How can he be hiding behind it if it's following him?

He must be running in circles ;)"


A simpler solution is surely that he's walking backwards?


Dillwynia Peter Manny wrote: "Garima wrote: "How can he be hiding behind it if it's following him?

He must be running in circles ;)"

A simpler solution is surely that he's walking backwards?"


At least Spike Milligan walked backwards across the Irish Sea; Ruis Zafron disappeared into a right pea souper of a fog.


message 28: by Niksa (new) - added it

Niksa Perovic Move yourself from the first 15 pages, and, maybe, you will realize that this book has something to offer.


message 29: by Niksa (new) - added it

Niksa Perovic Move yourself from the first 15 pages, and, maybe, you will realize that this book has something to offer.


message 30: by Tom (new)

Tom Review = Dire. The writing is along Warwick lines, with complaints repeated until they become meaningless. The whole thing desperately wants to be seen as some clever criticism, but the only result is an implausible whinge.


Warwick Thanks for stopping by, Tom. You certainly made me feel pretty foolish, I can tell you.


message 32: by Tom (new)

Tom I apologise. I have tourettes and can be impulsive with humor sometimes. I don't even care that much about this novel.


Warwick No need to apologise. All comments welcome here.


message 34: by William (new)

William Thanks for articulating everything I hated about this awful book.


message 35: by Lance (new)

Lance My favorite mixed metaphor so far: "My heart was pounding in my chest as if it feared that my soul wanted to carve its way out and run off down the stairs."


Warwick Holy shit haha! I don't think I made it that far!


Catherine I think it may be the translation to english, I have read this book in Spanish and it is full of poetry.


Carolina Fiuza the writing style is perfect. have you consider that maybe what you founded are some mistakes in the translation?


Warwick Sí, claro, pero ¿qué importa? Tengo que valorar el texto que he leído…


message 40: by Dave (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Bowman It is a book about love for books and about how we grow up to be what we are.
What's not to love about it ? ;)


message 41: by Veronica (new)

Veronica That is why i will not read or watch movies that have been translated. Quiero leer este libro en espanol pero no se como consiguirlo sin pagar tanto.


message 42: by Susan (new) - rated it 1 star

Susan Totally agree.


message 43: by John (new) - rated it 1 star

John Doe As someone who's read it in spanish, I can say it's as bad as this review says, if not worse.


notgettingenough Well, okay! I was about to put this on my to read list as a friend recommended it as her favourite book ever. Now I'm a bit shocked by that, having read your review and the comments.


message 45: by Maria Gabriella (new)

Maria Gabriella I am in shock too... I have had it on my to-read list for ages, since it was warmly recommended by a colleague, but now I am in doubt. Maybe I should give it a try, see if it passes the test of the first 50 pages (if I am not intrigued, I will stop reading). Or maybe not and just put it in the bag for the next charity shop run.


Warwick Try it! It didn't work for me, but maybe you'll have better luck.


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) notgettingenough wrote: "Well, okay! I was about to put this on my to read list as a friend recommended it as her favourite book ever. Now I'm a bit shocked by that, having read your review and the comments."
Everyone likes different things; check it out of the library if you can and taste it. I've never cared for snails, myself, but thousands of people love them and eat them every day in my city.


Warwick …where do you live??


Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Sevilla. When snails are in season many people in my area love them.


Warwick They seem to be in season right now, judging from my garden.


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