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January 2017: Foreign Literature > "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (5 stars)

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message 1: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2207 comments Ten year old Daniel has no idea that his life is about to change for ever when his widowed father, a Barcelona bookseller, takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Like all its select visitors, he is allowed to take a single book home to keep and to protect. The one that calls to him is a gothic story The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Enthralled by the book, he goes looking for other titles by Carax but without success - it transpires that a mysterious stranger has methodically collected Carax' books and burned them.

As Daniel grows over the next few years, he becomes more and more determined to unravel the mystery behind Carax, his tragic romance and his books. In doing so, he has to ignore threats from a faceless man, avoid the attention of the sadistic police inspector Fumero, survive an encounter with a haunted house, find new friendships and deal with a lot of teenage angst about beautiful women.

This story-within-a-story is fabulous: the sort of book that has you searching for opportunities to read it though you should be doing something else. It's also wonderfully tightly plotted and paced. There are lots of twists and turns but without ever losing the reader. The mystery unravels slowly but surely as Carax' and Daniel's stories become intertwined. It's set just after the Spanish Civil War, but has more of a brooding nineteenth century flavour to it.

I fell in love with the characters. The narrator Daniel (clever, kind, naive, stubborn, romantic teenager) and his wonderful father, whom I just wanted to hug; the delicious, outrageous Fermin; the monstrous Fumero, who avoids being purely a caricature by being given a backstory; Clara, Nuria and Bea, the very different women who cross Daniel's path; and a whole host of delightful secondary characters.

I also loved the storytelling style, particularly the many beautifully wry, sarcastic observations on events and on life. Characters tease each other, sometimes to hilarious effect. At the same time, there's real suspense and drama, and a sense of threat or impending doom as the stories collide. I correctly guessed several keys to the ending, but it didn't at all spoil things: I still had no idea how it was all going to turn out until it did.

So satisfying!

message 2: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 2032 comments I read this one a week or so ago. Loved it too!

message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8074 comments On my top forever list!

message 4: by Becky C (new)

Becky C | 108 comments I LOVE this book! One of my all time faves. Glad you liked it too!

message 5: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5463 comments Yay, another fan!

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