Friday, September 15, 2006

Shadow of the Wind -- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, translated by Lucia Graves

Several people recommended this book, and I'd seen reviews referring to its literary quality its beautiful writing, its wonderful characters, and so on. So I bought it. I have to confess that while I managed to read the whole thing (it's very long), I wasn't as taken with it as others seem to be.

I thought it was an attempt to write a modern version of the gothic novel. Having once taken a course in the gothic novel, I remember most of the things one is supposed to contain. Shadow of the Wind has 'em all. Deep, dark secrets? Check. Persecuted maidens? Check and double check. Death, decay, madness, crypts, madhouses? Check again. Old dark houses and dark and stormy nights? Check. Murders and violent confrontations? Check. Hints of the supernatural? Check. Dark figures slinking through the night? Doomed romance? Check. And so on. You get the idea. This kind of thing can be fun, but to tell the truth, after I've read nearly 500 pages of it, I don't want the big revelations to be things I guessed before I'd gotten to page 50. As for the beautiful writing, well, if referring to snow as "God's dandruff" is what constituted good writing for you, then you need to grab this book right now.

One of my big disappointments was that the opening pages introduce us to the "Cemetery of Fogotten Books." Now that's a great idea. But it's one that the novel does next to nothing with.

All in all, I'm not sorry I read Shadow of the Wind, but I don't plan to read any more books by Sr. Zafon. Should you check it out? If you like the kind of book I described, this is the kind of book you'll like. I report, you decide.


Cap'n Bob Napier said...

What it doesn't have is a night time picture of a gothic mansion with one lighted window on the cover.

Anonymous said...

"God's dandruff" is merely a joke that appears in the novel as an example of the bad writing of a character that fancies himself a poet, not the author's own prose. If that's the only thing you got, no wonder you didn't understand anything about this book, which is truly magnificent and the best written novel I've read in ages. it would really sad somebody would decide not to read it and enjoy the gorgeous feast of narrative it provides just because a pompous idiot decided to pass "judgement" on it.