Some books are just so great they manage to sweep you off your feet. Despite chronicling the lives of its many characters and treading on for pages, it feels as if one had only been reading for a short time. When Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch hit the stands, readers worldwide were gushing over it. But it left me with a bit of disappointment.
But not this one. Oh, definitely not this one.
I chanced upon The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon at the recent Delhi Book Fair, and having posted my pile of treasure on a number of social media platforms I had quite a few followers praise this particular one. Although the book jacket blurb did lure me in, but ‘The Number One Bestseller’ on the cover can sometimes turn out to be quite misleading.
So when I couldn’t handle my mounting curiosity, I began. And then I never rested till I was done, quite spent having read it with increasing speed. Since the first page, I was utterly and completely taken up by the many characters, its twisted plot and subplots and the gothic city of Barcelona, that’s almost a character in itself.
It all starts in 1945 Barcelona, when a young Daniel Sempere is introduced to the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ by his father. Imagine a vast, towering building, its facade etched with gothic designs, set in the middle of the city yet hidden from prying eyes, with a gargoyle for a door knocker and a labyrinthine library of ‘obscure and forgotten titles’ – a resting place for books and their souls. Having been allowed to choose one book from millions, Daniel fishes out ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julian Carax, and so begins his journey that twists and contorts with every dribble of secret unearthed of its dead author, how his life hangs in peril when he embarks in search of the truth of Carax’s life and death, and all those connected with him.
The book also reflects the pain of a city ravaged by war, of its denizens that turn into the living dead, of those in authority who take control of the city, terrorising the already afflicted and the defenceless. It’s been such a pleasure reading this book.
Since I prefer to read with a pencil in hand, marking the quotes and phrases that leave me thinking, here are the top three. Read them carefully, ponder over them silently and introspect, they’re worthy of separate blog posts in themselves. Here they are:
“Books are mirrors. You only see in them what you already have inside you.”
“Never trust anyone, Daniel, especially the people you admire. Those are the ones who will make you suffer the worst blows.”
“Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits.
You have to go for it.”
While I’m incapable of saying ‘no’ to those who seek to borrow my books or I skirt the issue altogether, this is one book I shall never part with. Much like Daniel Sempere who was entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the soul of The Shadow of the Wind, so shall I. But I urge you to get yourself a copy immediately, and while I re-read the book with guilty pleasure, I look forward to the other books in the trilogy.
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