Very rarely does a book seem to encapsulate all of the ingredients needed for the perfect novel. Something always seems to be missing no matter how good the overall book is. A poor, harried ending, lack of strong characterisation. And yet The Shadow Of The Wind seems to be that rarest of oddities: The perfect novel.
The novel begins when ten old Daniel Sempere is taken, by his father, to a dark and mysterious place called The Cemetery Of Forgotten Books. Here he discovers a world where abandoned and neglected books find an eternal home in this obscure and magical place.
He is told that he may take just one book for his very own, but he must keep it with himself always. This book and him will always be bound together. Daniel chooses The Shadow Of The Wind by Julian Carax, a book he has never before heard of and one whose author is a complete mystery to him.
Nevertheless Daniel is full of excitement at owning this precious and unusual treasure, but almost immediately it leads him to receives unwanted attention from an ominous and terrifying man who strikingly resembles the villain in The Shadow Of The Wind. This disfigured and ominous man begins appearing outside of Daniels apartment, just like the villain from the novel. He tries in vain to persuade Daniel to hand over his book which the stranger confesses he desperately wants to burn, like he wants to do with all of Carax’s book.
As the pressure mounts Daniel decides to find out for himself the true history of the book and the reason why this man would be so desperately pursuing him. Soon Daniel realises that the novels writer Carax has a dark and mysterious past, his death is one large question mark and the deeper Daniel digs the more he realises how inexplicably his life was linked with that of a beautiful lady whose whereabouts is again ambiguous and unknown. The further he digs the more it becomes apparent that there are unresolved events looming in the past, now threatening to leak into the present, but even more alarmingly it would seem a perfect paradox is appearing between Daniels life and that of Julian’s.
Zafron takes his slow and delectable time in peeling away the many layers of mystery in this story but if the truth is a long time waiting the novel never suffers. Peppered with humour, romance and great and beautiful friendships the book is an intricately woven masterpiece. A true story.
Book Groups Reaction…
It was a record-breaking book group moment when we met to discuss the book: for once we all loved it. From the plot to the characters to the ending and to the story on a whole, our reaction was unanimously positive. In fact being the ever critical bunch that we are we tried to find a fault but really struggled.
Everyone agreed that the book had an echo of Dickens about it. Something about this perfectly formed picture blew us all away. Most writers seems to excel in certain area’s but fail subsequently in others but Zafron is consistent.
If I had to be critical and I really hate to when a book is so good, I would say the ending seemed a little clichéd, perhaps not quite in keeping with the rest of the story. That said he didn’t cave into that most cardinal of sins that so many writers commit; writing a rushed and harried ending. To the end he took his time.
Myself and Manchester’s Artistic Son found the characterization of women particularly interesting, is it just us or are all the women portrayed as sexual objects? Created to steal the glance of any man in their path? Not that we believe the author to be sexist, I think it’s fair to say we both agreed that this was a clever literary move in order to represent how women were perhaps viewed in that time.
Holly and Sammy Dee disagreed slightly, not seeing such a contrived message in the book. But this discussion only lead us to ponder how on one level the book is quite simply an extraordinary story, but on the other a very thought-provoking novel which leaves you with much to ponder.
What does everyone else think of this book? Did you love it as much as we all did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.