the reader in a quiet corner

hi, i'm ceecee. my reading interests can be described as eclectic.

i made this account just in case goodreads implodes, but will be eratically updating here.

 

 

The Shadow of the Wind - Lucia Graves, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
“Well, this is a story about books."

"About books?"

"About accursed books, about a man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of anovel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind."

"You talk like the jacket blurb of a Victorian novel, Daniel."

"That's probably because I work in a bookshop and I've seen too many. But this is a true story.”

The Shadow of the Wind has been shelved and listed as a book about the love of books. Yes, but as it went along, it became more than that, and I admire Zafon's ability to balance the different themes in this novel.
“As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections.”

The story:
When Daniel was ten, his father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a bookworm's heaven, literally a library of rare or forgotten books - in other words, heaven - so he can choose one book and protect its memory. By providence or perverted twist of fate, he chooses Julian Carax's "The Shadow of the Wind", unknowingly plunging himself in the middle of a real life story of passion, murder and revenge. Who is the mysterious man who burns Carax's novels? Why is a seedy police inspector keen on finding Carax?

My impressions:
Maybe it's because of the Spanish influence, but this read like a soap opera to me. A boy born out of wedlock, his mother marrying another man for security, the boy adopted by an influential and rich man who falls in love with the daughter of that rich man. You really have to read it to see what I mean, and I assure you it won't be a waste of time. Unless you're squeamish around really passionate people. I must say that I was a little miffed that the protagonists who are so young could just go up and have sex without protection. I mean, seriously guys. But this was the 1920's so I guess there wasn't much contraceptives back then. So, duh, of course the girl would get pregnant. But that's passion. [shrugs, and rolls eyes]

And what's a soap opera without that mindblowing plot twist? Although when I found out about it, I cursed myself for not seeing it coming. Of course Julian and Penelope would be siblings! Only a soap opera would have a plot twist like that. It didn't surprise or shock me at all. If truth be told, I kind of relished it.

Since this book's primary premise was to find out the mystery of Julian Carax and the man who burns his books, Carax's overdramatic history kind of put me off, thus the minus one star, though I enjoyed it for the most part.

What I really enjoyed was Fermin's side of the story. Fermin was a street beggar who purports to have been a secret agent during the Spanish Civil War, and who was tortured by one Fumero, incidentally one of Julian Carax's buddies during high school. Fermin throws these japes on society which are just dead on, though sometimes pessimistic - how to treat a woman, the b.s. of priests, and society in general. And even though sometimes he can be a perv, or tragic, he was mostly hilarious.
“There are yokels out there who think that if they touch a woman's behind and she doesn't complain, they've hooked her. Amateurs. The female heart is a labryinth of subtleties, too challenging for the uncouth mind of the male racketeer. If you really want to possess a woman, you must think like her, and the first thing to do is to win over her soul. The rest, that sweet, soft wrapping that steals away your senses and your virtue, is a bonus.”

“Television, my dear Daniel, is the Antichrist, and I can assure you that after only three or four generations, people will no longer even know how to fart on their own. Humans will return to living in caves, to medieval savagery, and to the general state of imbecility that slugs overcame back in the Pleistocene era. Our world will not die as a result of the bomb, as the papers say - it will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything, and a lousy joke at that.”

"Like the good ape he is, man is a social animal, characterized by cronyism, nepotism, corruption and gossip. That's the intrinsic blueprint for our 'ethical behavior'"

"But in good time you'll see that sometimes what matters isn't what one gives but what one gives up."

"People with no life always have to stick their nose in the life of others."

AND THERE ARE JUST SO MANY OTHER GREAT QUOTES! My ebook is filled with highlights. I want to have a copy of this book, reread it and fill that with post-it notes on my favorite passages.

I also really loved the book's well written characters. Almost all of them have rich back-stories, some amusing, some presenting that character as ultimately a tragic person. Some "horrible" characters are redeemed, some are punished just as they should, some are just pitiful. Even minor characters are alive and likable, which I think is an attestation to the author who can write such characters. And it was great. Although I find it hard to believe that a man like Fumero could be allowed in the police force when he was a psycho, a cold-blooded murderer who shot his good-for-nothing mother. But even Fumero was a well-written villain with a sympathetic backstroy.

My favorite character would have to be Julian Carax's father, the hatter. The hatter may not have been noble, no, but he was painted as really human. He was first presented as a monster and all of his neighbors believe so. People who knew him only remembered the bad things he has done. He was too pious and rigid, but in the end his was a tragic story. Only when he grew old did he realize his son's importance. He was able to build a respectable relationship with his ex-wife, but in the end died of loneliness. Oh how I cry for this man.The hatter was a truly well created character, which showed that we are twisted little creatures but there is some good hidden inside of us.

And lastly, this has also been a coming-of-age story for Daniel. I liked Daniel although his naivete was sometimes infuriating. Not to mention that totally misleading comment of how he died. He "died" and was reborn. Great. Thanks for making me worry about nothing, Daniel. From his naivete he has slowly taken responsibility for himself and tried to redeem himself from his cowardly actions.

*4 - 4.5 stars A cleverly written novel about a story that mirrors the story within that story, with rich, tragic and well-written characters you will love, and a mystery that will keep you in the edge of your seat. It balanced melodrama with humor, which is always a crowd-pleaser. If you don't mind melodrama and love the kind of book mentioned previously, try this one a shot.