The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

five out of five dragons
five out of five dragons

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The Shadow of the Wind fell into my hands because of my husband. He was looking for good literary fiction and had seen this in Barnes and Noble a couple of times. The title drew him in even before the cover did. What lover of literary fiction can ever turn away from a book with such a mysterious title? Eventually we bought it and Chris was ecstatic at everything in it so naturally I read it. I was not disappointed. This story is so unique.

Even if you’ve read it and didn’t like it you can still be amazed at the creation. This book introduces the Cemetery of Forgotten Books! Which is enough to bump it up by at least two stars for just about anyone. Imagining a huge swath of forgotten books building into columns and forgotten passages is beyond fascinating.

It’s a spooky read that shouldn’t be read right before bed if you sleep alone or if you get scared easily. I could read it before bed because I loved the writing so much. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is some serious literary fiction. You will run into words you’ve never heard before used in a way you won’t hear anywhere else. I’m a sucker for literary fiction so I wasn’t surprised when I liked this one. What I was a bit surprised about was that it was historical fiction. It’s set in Barcelona in 1945. But the setting wasn’t used as a crutch as it sometimes can be with historical fiction. Possibly because Zafon is from Barcelona. Or because he’s a great writer.

I think that’s why he can get away with writing “contemporary” gothic fiction. I’ve heard people argue that gothic fiction is in the past and can’t be done well by writers today. While this is a historical novel Zafon is a contemporary writer and he does gothic fiction a great service. He has brought life back into the creaking trap door world.

I don’t think I know of anyone who enjoyed this book who doesn’t love Fermin. He weeds his way into your heart and memory. Daniel is also quite memorable but in a simpler way. Honestly, Daniel’s father is one of my favorite characters. He has a depth that Daniel lacks possibly because of age, but also I find the tragedy of Daniel’s father’s life to be enticing and inescapable.

I’m so delighted that this is a series. Something with this much imagination shouldn’t be left to just one book. I have read all of them so far that have been translated into English. I’m looking forward to the release of The Labyrinth of Spirits in June, I believe.

I’ve read other reviews that raise the concern of sexism in the writing. But I don’t know any other way to say this: I read it before I looked for such things. I have an annoying habit of taking things at face value and forgetting to weigh them with different views. Hence, this blog to delve into the nuances a bit. The Shadow of the Wind may be sexist in how it views women, but I would argue it is also sexist in how it views men. Women are pretty and to be protected while men must die to protect their women because of course their lives matter less. I need to reread this book anyway and see what I will see with sharper eyes.

Would recommend for people who love literary fiction, spooky historical fiction, literary fantasy, novels set in other countries (if, of course, you don’t live in Spain) and gothic fiction.

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