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The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon: A Review

October 13, 2013

The reason I read The Shadow of the Wind is a weird one. Quite a while ago, I saw The Prisoner of Heaven in Waterstones, read the blurb and thought it seemed like an intriguing story, but didn’t buy it. For a long time I continued to hang my nose over it, choosing to ignore that it obviously had a prequel, and it was only when a colleague, knowing that reading is a keen interest of mine, asked me if I’d read The Shadow of the Wind and learning that I hadn’t, proceeded to sing its praises, that I went out and bought it.

The-Shadow-Of-The-Wind

The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of Daniel Sempere, who was taken by his father, as a 10 year old in post-war Barcelona, to a place called “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books” and given the chance to choose a book from there to keep. Little does he know that there is much more to the book that he chooses, one by a man called Julian Carax, than he realises. As he grows up, he discovers that a number of people have a larger than normal interest in the book, including a man who reminds him of, and goes by the name of one of his characters, Lain Coubert, who is burning all the copies of books by Julian he can lay his hands on. For Daniel, what begins as a case of curiosity turns into a race to find out all he can about the life, and death, of Julian Carax, and uncover the truth.

The Shadow of the Wind is quite a slow burn and took me a while to get into. Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing is quite dense, with chapters of varying length that make it tricky to dip in and out of. However, once it starts to pick up pace, it becomes an unstoppable race to the finish. There are so many threads to the narrative, so many layers, incorporating the past and the present, that make the mystery of what happened to Julian and why Lain Coubert wants to burn all his books, all the deeper. The more Daniel digs into Julian’s history, the more complicated the mystery becomes, and even as Daniel starts to unravel the yarns and the story begins to fall into place, the true identity of Lain Coubert is still a mystery – even almost at the end it could be any one of a number of figures from Julian’s history. It could be so many people there’s almost no point guessing; you could decide it was one person, but a few chapters later you’d be doubting yourself, and a few chapters after that you’d be convinced it was someone else entirely. However, guess I did, and even though I doubted myself, I kept coming back to the same theory, and turned out to be right. But that’s not to say that The Shadow of the Wind is predictable, for even though I was right about the identity of Lain Coubert, there are other aspects of Julian’s mysterious life that I would never have seen coming, even though now I look back the hints were there all along.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind. It’s not a light read, and takes some real concentration to understand what’s going on, but the story is immensely enjoyable and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 13, 2013 3:53 pm

    Have it on my shelf but haven’t gotten around to reading it. Heard good things though, from everyone who has.

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