Wednesday, August 26, 2015

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Like A. S. Byatt’s Possession, this novel has two characters investigating the mystery of two parallel lives from a previous generation.  The similarities don’t end there, but that’s another subject for another day.  In this book, Daniel Sempere, who lives with his father in Barcelona, discovers a lost novel by Julián Carax entitled The Shadow of the Wind.  He soon gets caught up, not only in the novel, but in the mystery surrounding the author, who is presumed dead.  He soon finds himself being stalked by an evil police officer and by a sinister man intent on destroying all of Carax’s work.  Daniel enlists the help of Fermín, a former homeless man who now works in Daniel’s father’s bookstore, and Bea, the beautiful sister of Daniel’s best friend.  Daniel’s quest takes him to the home of Nuria, who knows more than she’s telling and tries to throw Daniel off the track, to a haunted mansion once occupied by the family of Penélope, who was Julián’s great love, and to a paupers’ hospice for the elderly.  I found the plot to be a little predictable, although one particular revelation caught me by surprise, despite all the clues.  More frustrating was that I occasionally had to remind myself that Julián was not Daniel and vice versa.  I’m no expert, but I would say that this is a very good translation, since there are a few clever plays on words that probably required some alteration from the Spanish but rendered the desired humorous effect.  For me, the pace was a little slow, and, although there was plenty of confusion to go around, the general gist of it was very clear.  At the end the author provides a walking tour of Barcelona that highlights some of the real landmarks that figure into the story.  I have never been to Barcelona, but I think following this itinerary in order to become familiar with the setting would be worthwhile, but then I would have to reread the book.  Unfortunately, I did not love it enough to traipse through it again.

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