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.
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.
Translated by Lucia Graves.
©2001 Carlos Ruiz Zafon; Translation ©2004 Lucia Graves; (P)2004 Penguin Audio
"If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. Shadow is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendor and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots; this is one gorgeous read." (Stephen King)
"Superbly entertaining." (Washington Post Book World)
"Carlos Ruiz Zafon has written a masterful novel of hope, mystery, and love, made more superb on audio." (AudioFile)
"Part detective story, part boy's adventure, part romance, fantasy, and gothic horror, the intricate plot is urged on by extravagant foreshadowing and nail-nibbling tension. This is rich, lavish storytelling." (Booklist)
I loved this book, and would have unreservedly given it five stars both for the writing and for the narration, except for the publisher's poor choice to include the author's badly written, ham-handed piano accompaniment at the beginning of each section and during the moments of greatest emotional and descriptive impact.
I understand that Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote the music himself, and that indicates to me that it must have been included as a favor to him, but that decision does no favors for the book. At the moment when I was most engrossed in the story, the music would fade in and completely ruin my concentration and enjoyment of the story. It's poorly and tritely composed in the fashion of the worst kind of high-end department store parlor accompaniment, and completely detracts from the feeling and quality of the book.
If you can manage to ignore the music, the story is wonderful, with amazing character depth and a wonderfully circuitous plot, and Jonathan Davis's narration is beautiful, utilizing the characteristic Castilian lisp for the places and names and giving wonderful voice to the many characters.
The staging of this book is great. The plot is interesting and the characters all have depth...but if you skip a day or two while you are listening to the book, you may have trouble keeping things straight. For most of the novel, the story is actually two similar stories, each with its own set of cooresponding characters. What can make the audio version especially difficult to follow is the sheer number of characters, all with Latin names. This is further complicated by the fact that many minor characters are also addressed by name and for the non-Spanish readers, the street names and places can also sound like names adding to your distraction. Here is an example, Calle Tallers, Nuria Monfort, Lain Coubert, Jorge Aldaya, Fumero, Don Fredico, Fermin, Miquel Moliner, Mr Cabestany and Dr. Anacleto.. The first is a street, the next group major characters we need to remember and the last is a publisher and a then a doctor of less importance. All appear within a few pages of each other and represent less than half the characters you will have to keep straight in your head. In the book it is fairly easy to keep all the plotlines and people organized. When you only have the audio version to rely on you may not keep enough detail in memory to fully enjoy all the nuances. I finally bought a copy of the book so I could go back over the parts I was fuzzy on. I enjoyed the audio much more with the book handy.
The narrator was wonderful and the book engaging but if I wasn't so caught up in the story, I would have stopped listening .
The music played during some of the scenes was appallingly intrusive and often at odds with the emotion I was sensing in the book. It made parts of it feel like a telenovela.
It's hard to describe this book: a blend of history, romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller, and ode to literature. There are really two interwoven plots. One plot is a coming of age story about Daniel, growing up in the 1940's and 1950's in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War. It describes his fascination with a forgotten Spanish novelist (Julian Carax), who had disappeared decades before. In the second story, the story of Julian Carax's life emerges, and we wonder in suspense whether the mystery of his sudden disappearance and literary oblivion will ever be uncovered. This is indeed a complex novel with many characters. I was prepared for a challenging "listen," and even checked out a print copy of the novel from the library in case I needed to backtrack. However, the audio version stood clearly on its own, and there was no need whatsoever to refer to the print book. I will reveal, however, that my familiarity with Barcelona (from a visit several years ago) may have enhanced my ability to appreciate the locales referred to in the novel. The narration is superb. Highly recommended!
This is a remarkable book in that it uses an unusual time in history not often written about as the backdrop to two very intense love stories developed in tandem. The story line is complex and challenging, as it is woven over half a century and there are many characters portrayed at different stages in their development. The author maintains a consistency of theme and steady development of the characters throughout -- I can only imagine the intricate flowcharts or notes that he had to maintain to keep it all straight in his own mind.
That said, there is a high degree of melodrama that gets in the way. Exaggerated emotions abound and interpersonal conflicts familiar to all take on highly charged intensity and drive the characters to sometimes unbelievable levels of action. The book is very long, and I agree with another reviewer that it is longer than the story requires. Much of the writing is beautifully done, but there are clearly times where the author was using every image he could conceive to describe scenes and action. While the first two-thirds of the book are very well crafted, the author appeared to have run out of creative ways to develop the story line, and relied heavily on a "voice from the dead" to simply explain/tell much of the story.
Yet the book keeps one always on that edge between reality and fantasy and the ending is well-crafted and worth the long read. The narrator is excellent; his pronunciation of the Spanish names was a delight to hear and he distinguished all of the characters admirably.
A thoughtful and well written story. It gets better as it goes - but for the longest time not much is happening. The narration by Jonathan Davis is outstanding - as usual. The music sucks and there should be an option to turn it off!
Daily commuter relying on Audible to keep awake. I need excitement! If something crazy doesn't happen in the first 20 mins I'm done!
I got this book because it was long & 50% off at audible. I am a D.Koontz, S.Grafton, J.Evanovich & J.Patterson fan - so this was a stretch for me and I expected to be disappointed. Especially, since the plot description seemed dull but I took a risk. ***I was taken immediately into this story. The characters are full & rich, the story line interesting. I could not stop listening! It spans many years, in which a mystery unfolds bit by bit. The writing is poetic. I fell in love with most of the characters, except the Inspector Javert-like cop who is totally hateful. I give this 5 stars and will read everything by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Take a risk - you won't be disappointed - no matter what your preferences are.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
“Well, this is a story about books."
“About accursed books, about a man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind."
“You talk like the jacket blurb of a Victorian novel, Daniel."
“That's probably because I work in a bookshop and I've seen too many. But this is a true story.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
My friend who recommended this book to me said that this was not a book for everyone. That rascal, now she tells me after I purchased and started reading it. But that is kind of the thing, isn’t it? As that author says, “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.” Oh, that’s all wrong here. That’s not why this book is not for everyone.
I liked this book a lot but I do not think that it is perfect. The story reminded me of Kate Morton’s Forgotten Garden. Both books are multifaceted. Both are books about books. Both books contain stories about multiple characters whose lives and stories intersect. Both books are mysteries and gothic in style. The setting for this one is Barcelona, Spain and takes place mostly around the first half of the 20th century. The language, tone and manner of expression is very Spanish. Originally written in Spanish, some have commented that much of the prose might have suffered in translation. While I cannot confirm that and while some of the phrasing did seem a bit clumsy in places, by and large, the prose worked just fine for me. I do think, however, that parts could have benefited from improved editing.
The book is about cruelty and great kindness, romance and heroism. The story’s many aspects of love stood out for me. These were familiar, platonic and intimate in nature. Much of the love is of the unrequited kind and this was the case for many of the characters. Much of the frustration, however, is resolved in the end, one way or another. Probably more ladies than gents are drawn to romantic novels. However, most of the loves in this story are described from the male perspective. Perhaps there is something here that can be gleaned and appreciated by both genders.
The narration in my Audible selection is outstanding but again the production leaves something to be desired. The author wrote the solo piano pieces that pepper the story. I like pepper but too much of the spice can spoil a meal. This was the case in a few places of the story. The music would crescendo and almost drown out the narration. Otherwise, the music was probably a nice touch especially for a book of this kind.
Can I recommend this book to everyone? Probably not but, like my friend, I cannot say exactly why. It kept my attention most of the way through and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well written but I think it was the wonderful narration that made it really good for me.
As others have noted, Zafon's own piano score does not help this narration. Davis is a great narrator who does the Spanish impeccably and adds distinctive touches to each character's voice, but when the piano came on I was so distracted. It tends to crank up whenever a woman appears, too, as if we are supposed to take notice of how very ephemeral and mysterious she is. (All his female characters are ephemeral and mysterious.) I hope the producers take note of these comments and consider removing that piano from later editions. I also agree wholeheartedly with the comment to have the physical book on hand (mine was from the library) to keep the characters and especially the POV character straight. When we went into Nuria's POV, I began to get very confused, and even Davis's narration couldn't help me. Otherwise, very enjoyable listen.
The language is so beautiful - you are so beguiled by the descriptions - places, things and times I have never lived were brought into reality - I could see it all.
It's too hard to name one without spoiling one of several moments for the next reader.
I have not, but this one was exquisite. I have started The Angel's Game - a different performer is doing that one and I normally love him as a reader, but for these stories, I can't imagine anyone being better than Jonathan Davis.
I guess I had two - first, I was crying at the beautiful ending, and second, I immediately began to listen to it again. I had to make myself go on to another book after I finished it for the 2nd time!!
I cannot believe I waited thirteen years to read this beautiful, mysterious book!
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