Tonight at book group I’ll be leading the discussion of my selection, The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I love that one of my twitter friends, @Voldematt, recommended this gorgeous read. I actually read this book at the end of January, while on vacation. I loved it, and hope I succeeded in getting the other women in the book group to read it. I’ll find out this evening.
The Shadow of the Wind is set in Barcelona in the 40s. The city is mysterious, and struggling to heal after the throes of war. A young boy who wakes up from his sleep terrified of forgetting his mother’s face, is taken to the cemetery of lost books by his father.
It is in that cemetery of lost books that this boy, on the cusp of manhood, discovers a book he will treasure, and an irresistible intrigue. Zafon is a master with words. His writing is so smooth, so satisfying that I felt like a guest at a gourmet banquet. I felt honored to sit at his table and step into the gauzy, filtered, evening light of Barcelona’s streets.
The cemetery of lost books reminded me of how those of us that love stories, books, and how they move us, effortlessly fall in love with clever books like Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and fold ourselves into stories like Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. Those of us that love stories, and adore authors who spin a web of romance, mystery and danger will easily melt into the deceptive, and revealing fog of Barcelona.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“Is it true you haven’t read any of these books?”
“Books are boring.”
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you,” answered Julian.
“Excuse me, but these ladies over there want to know if you could use more respectable language.”
“They can mind their own bloody business,” answered Fermin in a loud voice.
The conductor turned toward the three ladies and shrugged, to indicate that he had done what he could and was not inclined to get involved in a scuffle over a matter of semantic modesty.
“People who have no life always have to stick their noses in the life of others,” said Fermin.
I found my father asleep in his dining-room armchair, with a blanket over his legs and his favorite book open in his hands–a copy of Voltaire’s Candide, which he reread a couple of times a year, the only times I heard him laugh heartily. I observed him: his hair was gray, thinning, and the skin on his face had begun to sag around his cheekbones. I looked at that man whom I had once imagined almost invincible; he now seemed fragile, defeated without knowing it. Perhaps we were both defeated. I leaned over to cover him with the blanket he had been promising to give away to charity for years, and I kissed his forehead, as if by doing so I could protect him from the invisible threads that kept him away from me, from that tiny apartment, and from my memories, as if I believed that with that kiss I could deceive time and convince it to pass us by, to return some other day, some other life.
Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.
I loved how this story is a story of itself, and that it circles around so completely. It is a breathtaking read. I gave it five stars on goodreads.
I hope that when you do pick this book up you savor it slowly.