Synopses & Reviews
The international literary bestseller more than one million copies sold worldwide.
Barcelona, 1945 just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.
As with all astounding novels, The Shadow of the Wind sends the mind groping for comparisons The Crimson Petal and the White? The novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte? Of Victor Hugo? Love in the Time of Cholera? but in the end, as with all astounding novels, no comparison can suffice. As one leading Spanish reviewer wrote, "The originality of Ruiz Zafón's voice is bombproof and displays a diabolical talent. The Shadow of the Wind announces a phenomenon in Spanish literature." An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller's art.
"The Shadow of the Wind will keep you up nights and it'll be time well spent. Absolutely marvelous." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"To call this book...old-fashioned is to mean it in the best way. It's big, chock-full of unusual characters, and strong in its sense of place....This is rich, lavish storytelling, very much in the tradition of Ross King's Ex Libris." Keir Graff, Booklist
"Beautifully translated by Lucia Graves, it's a compulsive page turner: Never mind the improbabilities; the reader gets hooked by Daniel's strange odyssey and the innumerable offbeat characters he encounters along the way." Peter Green, The Los Angeles Times
"Wind is wondrous....While managing to hit just about every genre, The Shadow of the Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero. (Grade: A)" Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Entertainment Weekly
"Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone....Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel." Publishers Weekly
"[S]uperbly entertaining....[A]nyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
"The melodrama and complications of Shadow...can approach excess, though it's a pleasurable and exceedingly well-managed excess. We are taken on a wild ride...that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches." Richard Eder, The New York Times
"It's a mesmerizing read that swallowed this reader's soul, at least for the hours I spent in its company." Maya Muir, The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Zafón's writing is so epic and vague, he fails to engage the reader even when describing real-life events....The combined effect of the foggy setting and soggy writing is of being lost in a swamp." Jennie Yabroff, The San Francisco Chronicle
"[A]n over-the-top, operatic melange....It's so chock-full of hokum that it makes The Da Vinci Code look like a work of the starkest realism. In short, it's a hoot." Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News
"[T]he secrets and lies, murder and intrigue that are described on every page make for an unusual and engaging read that will leave readers clamoring to know which of the characters will be around by the last page to tell their tales." Angela Smith, San Antonio Express-News
"[A] deeply flawed creation....The novelty and wit dry up before the novel's protracted conclusion, an exhausting and, alas, risible affair that reads like an out-of-context merging of opera and 1930s Universal horror films." Gregory Miller, San Diego Union-Tribune
"[Shadow] follows a traditional narrative; what is outstanding is the metaphysical concept of books that assume a life of their own as the author subtly plays with intertextual references....[A] meticulously crafted mosaic." Library Journal
"It's part detective story, part bildungsroman, part soap opera, but the biggest flaw in The Shadow of the Wind is that it simply has too many parts....The novel's structure, too, is hopelessly fractured." Bill Vourvoulias, Newsday
"Lucia Graves...has rendered Ruiz Zafón's distinctive sensibility with the seamless invisibility of a good translator. Her unsung efforts make it possible for the English-reading world to enjoy this gem of a novel." Robert Weibezahl, BookPage
"[S]tylishly written and informed by a love of books....Ruiz Zafón embeds these concepts within a deft thriller, a populist work of genre fiction that looks beyond its own conventions, even if it doesn't venture too far." Kansas City Star
"[A] compelling labyrinth of stories that gracefully unfolds in layers, as if the novel were a Russian nesting doll....But this is also a book about love's poetic power to heal the wounds of the past and offer second chances." Miami Herald
"Readers may find, as they are hypnotically drawn in by the blurred layers of reality and easy identification with the characters, that they are exploring The Shadow of the Wind in the company of new friends." Rocky Mountain News
"If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. Shadow is the real deal....Be warned, you have to be a romantic at heart to appreciate this stuff, but if you are, this is one gorgeous read." Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
"The Shadow of the Wind
has an innocence that doesn't prevent it from being thoroughly enthralling; at heart, the novel is a story of star-crossed lovers, bold young heroes, their lovably eccentric sidekicks and a cruel, dastardly villain. There are no fiendishly clever twists or secret codes, but Ruiz Zafón doesn't need them. He sweeps you along with the sheer riverine force of his sincerity and passion." Laura Miller, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review
The international literary sensation a runaway bestseller in Spain is about a boy's quest through the secrets and shadows of postwar Barcelona for a mysterious author whose book has proved as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget.
This best-selling Spanish novel (translated into English by Lucia Graves) begins with a young boy named Daniel, who discovers a strange, forgotten novel in a bookstore: it's called The Shadow of the Wind, and the rumor is that its author is being plagued by a man who is trying to track down copies of the book so he can destroy them. As the story moves out of the 1940s and Daniel grows up, he becomes consumed with investigating this bizarre story and the life of the book's author, and the search for the truth takes him not only into the lives of others but deeply into his own background.
About the Author
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, thirty-nine, grew up in Barcelona. The Shadow of the Wind has spent more than a year on the Spanish bestseller list, much of it at number one, and has sold in more than twenty countries.
The Shadow of the Wind takes place in the atmospheric, and very palpable, setting of Barcelona and in fact, this city becomes one of the novel's more prominent characters. Why did you choose to locate your story here?
Barcelona is a complex virtual world of Dickensian lights and shadows, beautiful and mysterious. I wanted to bring its history, its soul, alive in this story in a very cinematic, sensorial way. A poet once called Barcelona "the great enchantress." I was born, raised, and have lived most of my life here and wanted to use my hometown not merely as a backdrop, but as an organic character to convey its romantic and seductive, yet sometimes dark and dangerous allure.
You chose post-Spanish civil war Barcelona rather than the contemporary city. Why is that?
The first half of the 20th century was a time of tremendous dramatic and historic significance, not just for Barcelona or Spain, but the entire world. I wanted to use this rich, complex historical canvas to explore themes and issues that are as, or even more, relevant today than they were then.
You're a screenwriter as well as a novelist. How has that influenced your fiction?
Writing screenplays forces you to consider elements of story structure, and a variety of narrative devices, that can be adapted to the more complex demands of a novel. I believe the modern novel should try to capture the scope and ambition of the 19th century classics while making use of the narrative tools the 20th century has left us, from the avant-garde to the images and sounds of the golden screen.
I also think that this book, being a novel of novels and a book within a book, has the reader bring his own literary and cultural references from classic Greek tragedy to genre fiction to the classics to the language and images of modern advertising or film and project them into the story. All of these things come together within the texture of the novel and, I hope, will allow each reader discover something of himself in the stories within stories their hopes and fears, their own humanity mirrored. I think the reader will enjoy the ride, the images, the language, the humor, the suspense, the sense of adventure, and above all the thrill of pure storytelling.
Where did the ideas for The Cemetery of Forgotten Books come from?
This formidable labyrinth of books was the first image that came to my mind for this novel, the first brick in the building. It's a metaphor of all the vital and important things, ideas, and people we tend to forget or neglect in favor of the banal, empty, and often self-destructive elements in our lives.
Why books? I'm a voracious reader, and I like to explore all sorts of writing without paying attention to labels, conventions, or critical fads. I learn a little from everything I read, from genre fiction to the classics, though if I had to choose a particular pantheon I'd say the great 19th century giants have yet to be beat or even remotely approached. Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Balzac, Hugo, Hardy, Dumas, Flaubert & Co. Dream Team indeed. The Shadow of the Wind uses elements of the mystery novel, the historical thriller, the grammar of film and image storytelling, metafiction, romance saga, gothic literature, the comedy of manners, and many other narrative devices to create a new genre that goes beyond the sum of its parts. My aim was to allow the reader to experience this world and these characters in a sensory, cinematic, tactile way.
This book has become quite an international phenomenon still at the top of Spain's bestseller list, where it was first published in Spanish, and #1 in Germany. Clearly it crosses cultural and national boundaries. Who do you see as the ideal reader for this novel?
I hope this is reading for those who love, really love, to read. I drew on the Dickensian model of creating a complex world populated by intriguing places, peculiar creatures, and infinite details at work. A good novel begins with a universe that should feel to the reader as real and fascinating, if not more so, than the one he inhabited before he picked up the book. This is a novel for those who love to lose themselves in that kind of universe.
Every translation needs some fine-tuning to adapt certain aspects of the context and double meanings. However, I tend to think readers, and lovers of books in general, have a secret nation of their own, and their understanding and intellectual curiosity goes beyond languages, passports, or even the fine points of slightly different cultural and historical contexts.
What do you hope readers of The Shadow of the Wind will take away from your book?
I think novels should be an experience. I want my readers to be thrilled, to be moved, to laugh, to cry, and to be terrified. To be stimulated. I want them to have the time of their lives and at the same time to look at the world, and themselves, in a different light. Many readers have told me that The Shadow of the Wind made them fall in love again with books and reading. If my book accomplishes that, I'll be more than happy.
What can we hope to see from you next?
I'm working on a new novel that picks up the mix of genres and techniques of The Shadow of the Wind and tries to take it to the next level. It is the second in a cycle of four books that I've planned in this "gothic Barcelona quartet," a sort of narrative kaleidoscope of Victorian sagas, intrigue, romance, comedy, mystery and "newly" fashioned old fashioned good storytelling.