If you don’t believe in magic, please read this book. For it is just that.
When the lovely lady here shared her delectable review here, I was drawn to it. The way, Daniel was drawn to “The shadow of the wind” in this book. The plot, the characters and the flawless flow of language captivated me and I believe I have left a part of myself in the book, refusing to leave, wanting to linger.
Have you felt the taste of contentment that comes when you read stories within stories, an intricate maze, beautifully constructed with absolute precision where there are no loose ends? That feeling of bliss as you unravel one mystery after the other, impatiently waiting to know what happens but never forgetting to savour every detail?
This book is that piece of magic. In Daniel’s own words,
“This is a story about books… about accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel 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” (178).
Young Daniel is introduced by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books –“A labyrinth of passage-ways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive, woven with tunnels, steps, platforms and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry.” The Cemetery of Forgotten books is a secret place that houses some of the rare and forgotten titles . Isn’t that so poetic? A place where books go to sleep but are still kept alive? I fell for it when Daniel’s father says:
“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens” (6).
When his father, as per tradition asks him to choose a book for himself and protect it for life, Daniel finds “The Shadow of the wind” by an author he has never heard of, Julian Carax. He is mesmerized by the story and the writing and wishes to read other books by the author. Strangely, not only is the author not familiar, but his books seem to have been destroyed by a character from his own book, who still seems to be on a quest to destroy any other existing copies. In his journey to find more books and protect the copy he has, he gets drawn into the life of Julian Carax. And strangely, Daniel’s own life seems to mirror that of Carax’ in many ways. Daniel gets drawn into the quest to find more about Julian Carax. As he grows older, he meets many new characters and is further drawn into a story that gets more and more intriguing and dramatic with tragedy, horror, suspense, passion, romance and above all – hope.
This is one of those few books where almost every page has a quote. Where I fell in love almost every minute I read. Where I had goosebumps throughout. Where I found hope and passion amidst gloom and darkness.
“The moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you’ve already stopped loving that person forever.”
Where I saw shadows and walked down the streets of Barcelona. Where the characters seduce you and the writing style is almost on par with old literary masters.
“. . .sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?”
“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.”
Here’s more amazement in store: This book is actually a translation. But you will never find it out. Not with the kind of eloquence with which it has been written.
Because Zafon is one genius of an author. He knows a book lover too well. He knows that for a book-lover, the book is not just a story. It is a sneak-peek into the author’s mind. An insight to worlds untravelled and an avenue to meet new people. He knows that a book tells us much much more than the mere story. And that’s how he has etched a beautiful plot with poetry on almost every page, weaving stories within each other that flow so smoothly as though one; where Julian Carax, Daniel, Nuria, Fermin, Isaac, Penelope, Jacinta, Fumero linger on your mind long after you have closed the book. Where you see shadows everywhere. And you begin to understand as to why Julian Carax’ books are being burnt.
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echoes of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a place in our memory to which, sooner or later – no matter how many books we read, how many words we discover, or how much we learn or forget – we will return.
While the book is sheer brilliance mostly, with loose ends tied up neatly, I had one little doubt though. A lot of the mysteries are solved in the end in a long letter written by a character who didn’t seem to be involved in some of the events. It is possible that I may have overlooked something or Zafon must have gotten carried away. Anyways. That does not make this book any less than a must-have and a must-read.
“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”
You may find it a bit too artistic at times, even normal conversations. But I loved the style. I started marking quotes to re-read and share and realized half-way that I seemed to be highlighting the entire book.
‘People are evil.’
I know this review is filled with quotes – but you will realize how hard it is to not share them when you read this book. Please go and read this. Because I don’t think anyone can review it adequately without rewriting the book. Because, you wouldn’t want this book to land in that cemetery of forgotten books .