The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón(Phoenix)

The Shadow of the Wind is an incredibly enchanting and poetically descriptive story that opens up with the following line: “I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”

It is a line that encapsulates the theme of the book so perfectly, inspiring any avid reader to continue the pursuit of the story with gusto.

Zafón writes with the elegance and heart of lost poets and seasoned storytellers. His words flow so rhythmically that one can not only feel a part of the scene that he has so magically created, but one can hear tone and cadences of the characters’ voices in such a way as to imagine yourself a complete eavesdropper; the proverbial fly on the wall as the characters forge their paths through the story.

Set in post-war Barcelona in the early 1940s, 10 year old Daniel Sempere visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books – a labyrinth of tall, cascading bookshelves, filled with discarded books and guarded by a devoted group of literary aficionados.

A rule of the cemetery, endorsed and vehemently upheld, is that each visitor entrusted with the secret of this place, adopt and protect a single book of their choosing as though to give it life and purpose for as long as the owner is alive.

It is in this way that these guards ensure that the stories within these forgotten books can once more render their life upon the reader.

It is such that a single book calls out to young Daniel, and subsequently catapults him into a journey of unearthing the truth behind the mystery that shrouds its author.

A few themes that immediately arise within the first few chapters are one of a father devoted to his motherless son and the relentless pursuit of his son’s happiness and growth; a pre-pubescent teen who experiences the trials and tribulations of family, life, heartbreak and purpose in the most vividly-explained and heartfelt way; a fascist regime that is heatedly opposed by a loveable and charming Fermín, a character who forges an unlikely friendship with the protagonist, and a love interest that sears the heart of young Daniel, undoubtedly spearing the youth forward in his quest to unravel the almost ethereal story of the author whose book has sparked a dangerous interest and a wanton desire to destroy.

It is a gripping read.

It is a story that cannot only be admired for its prose-like writing, but for its ability to paint a picture with such clarity one can almost smell the delicate aromas that permeate this town of Barcelona.

As a reader, I felt that Zafón so desperately desired to create an intimate space for me to share in Daniel’s journey as he drew me in further and further, appealing to my sheer curiosity and my love for literature, history, mystery and adventure.

Daniel is an incredible, honest character; an old soul with an agility of mind that endears to the reader. He is immediately warm and kind-hearted, and simply unaware of how intimidating a presence he can be. Likeable and relatable, his tenacity and human spirit inspires you.

His journey sees us exploring Barcelona and meeting characters and spirits that engender a colourful array as the plot unearths itself.

Highlighting a time of political turmoil, a society governed by rules, and a moral fibre that is sometimes questionable as a reader yet immensely relevant to the period, The Shadow of the Wind brings together a number of facets to enhance the quest that Daniel finds himself on, as well as the tumultuous journey of a young man’s life as he discovers things about himself and his capacity to love and to learn.

It is a highly-recommended read, if only for the sheer brilliance of the author.

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