The Shadow of the Wind (2001)

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

An international bestseller translated into dozens of languages, The Shadow of the Wind is a literary mystery set in post–Spanish Civil War Barcelona. The novel opens with a widower taking his 10-year-old son Daniel to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of books forgotten except by a select few. Daniel is allowed to take one book to protect for life. His choice is The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel enjoys the book and wants to read more by its unknown author — but learns that all of Carax’s books have disappeared. Daniel, of course, wants to find out about the mysterious Carax.

He is 20 by the time he completely solves the mystery. Over the years his life unfolds with uncanny similarities to that of Carax, who also was from Barcelona but ran away to Paris. The Shadow of the Wind is a detective story, a love story (two love stories — one tragic, one happy), a coming-of-age story, and even a tour guide to Barcelona (some editions include “a walk in the footsteps of The Shadow of the Wind”). A sadistic villain, a labyrinthine plot, a roguish sidekick, and some larger-than-life characters put the writing over the top at times, but The Shadow of the Wind is a fun read, swift-paced and thrilling. Ultimately it aspires to be more than escapist: it is about the power that one book can exert over a single person.


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