This book allows for great readers to rejoice, and know that literature written this well is a rare treat to savor. One can note passages that are already carried within those soulful recesses of the heart.
Certainly one can learn some new words in this rich literature. I had to look up "hagiography." If you read it, you may not even notice the word, but I'm sure there are others I missed because I had to keep page turning to find out what happened next. This book within a book is a mysterious experience to partake in. There are no dull moments, just a magnificent read.
Another pro is the walking tour of Barcelona revealing the places from The Shadow of the Wind. It is shown in the back of the book.
The only con is the truthful, painful statement from one of the characters. "Time has taught me not to lose hope, yet not to trust in hope either. Hope is cruel, and has no conscience."
This New York Times bestseller is so well written that it doesn't matter what the story is about because the reader will just keep page turning for the sheer delight of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's superb mastery of wanting-to-read-more writing. His intelligent and precise use of humor, especially with the character Fermin Romero de Torres, is simply delicious. The story is great too - it is a mystery that seduces the reader into a shadowy Barcelona beginning in the summer of 1945, after the war.
A young boy is introduced to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books which marks all the ensuing characters in a Gothic tone with great passion attached. The Shadow of the Wind is the book the young man is drawn to amidst, "A labyrinth of passageways 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 young man, Daniel, proceeds to read the book, and then seeks information about it's author, Julian Carax. The novel travels through 3 decades of searching, finding, losing, and finally knowing a liberation of the wonderful characters from an age of fearful, haunting lives. The characters are from Julian's past, and Daniel's present.
As the work progresses, Daniel's life often parallels that of Julian's, and each other's friends, lovers and enemies. The main bad guy, a ruthless, evil, bully policeman, Inspector Fumero, commits exotic and cruel torture to characters associated with Julian and Daniel. Ruiz Zafon captures a group of human destinies in a most satisfying mystery of hijacked and destroyed books, failed love, found love, murder, demention, and lucid humor sprinkled about exactly.
The places of books or where books live in this novel (bookstores and a cemetery) helps to draw readers in because there is nothing like a dusty bookstore, or a forgotten, secret place (the cemetery). The descriptive writing puts the reader in those places. Sometimes I wanted to check for cobwebs after reading a certain scene. Shadows abound in old deserted mansions, castles, and alleyways. A Gothic sense of interrupted horror completes the dramatic experiences of some characters, others aren't so lucky.
The ending signals satisfaction because there is a closure of the story of the lives that gave us such a great read. Threads are tidied up, and the present becomes full circle.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a great writer, and to be so he must be a great reader. Luckily for us, his work has been translated from Spanish to over 40 languages. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this novel, and will definitely read more of his writing.