Carlos Ruiz Zafon – The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind is a book for people who love books. It takes place in Barcelona, Spain throughout the first half of the 20th century, a tumultuous time in that country’s history. In 1945, the book’s protagonist, Daniel Sempere, is introduced by his father, a widowed used bookseller, to a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is allowed to take one book from the Cemetery, as long as he promises that he will preserve the book and its story for the rest of his life. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind, a novel by a little known author named Julian Carax. Daniel reads the novel and is completely spellbound. At 10 years old, he feels as though he has truly awoken to the power of the written word. He then begins a quest to learn more about the book’s mysterious author so that he can read more of Carax’s work. His inquiries are met with stories that someone is systematically purchasing and destroying copies of Julian Carax’s novels. The mystery that ensues is gripping and a pure joy to read.
I adored The Shadow of the Wind. The writing is both beautiful and easy to read, which is a rarity and even more incredible since the book has been translated from the original Spanish. If I’d previously known nothing about the book or its author prior to reading it, I would have had no idea that it was a translation. The characters are rich, vibrant, and easy to root for. I have not read a novel in quite some time where I was so readily able to identify with and root for the central characters. They became my good friends over the hours that I spent reading the book.
The mystery elements of The Shadow of the Wind are also wonderful. The suspense runs quite high until the novel reaches its climax and the denouement, where the truth is explained from the perspective of a character that you would definitely not expect to reveal anything, is tremendously satisfying. The Shadow of the Wind is just the right length: Zafon has not lingered on any of the plot points for too long and it doesn’t skim over any necessary details. I would say that the only real weakness of the book is that the true villain is a little underdeveloped and, for me, his motivations weren’t particularly compelling.
If you’re a reader, you should check out the Shadow of the Wind as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.
You Must Remember This
You Must Remember This is a Hollywood history podcast written and narrated by Karina Longworth, a writer and film critic, and is probably one of the best podcasts I’ve ever listened to. When I was sick with the virus that put me in the hospital in late October/early November it was my constant companion. Karina Longworth’s research is impeccable and her voice and enunciation are fantastic.
The podcast generally follows a series format. Sometimes the series will explore just one story and others will have single episodes that fit the theme of the series. Topics that she has covered so far include:
- Movie stars during the Second World War
- The Hollywood Blacklist (stories of Hollywood folks who were involved in or affected by the House Un-American Activities Committee)
- Charles Manson’s Hollywood (the most critically acclaimed series and my personal favourite)
- Dead Blondes (or, really, tragic dead blondes)
If you’re at all interested in the Manson family (or true crime stories), the Charles Manson series is a must. If you’re at all interested in old Hollywood or like old movies, or are looking for a way of learning more about old movies, this podcast is a phenomenal tool to learn about film history and also to get recommendations for films to watch. Try it out sometime and let me know what you think!