Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind, translated by Lucia Graves (2001)
In my last Make me read it poll, there was a hot contest between The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, but the gothic novel set in a darkly atmospheric Barcelona won out by a hair. I was curious to read a book that seemed to generate such strong and differing opinions. Some readers seem to find it absolutely stunning, others are distinctly “meh.” What would I think?
Well, I definitely fall more into the “meh” camp. There were strong elements that had me intrigued, especially at the beginning, with the premise of the “cemetery of forgotten books” and the eponymous novel that seizes the narrator’s imagination when he’s just 10 years old, and sets him off on a quest for the mysterious author. However, the resulting mystery just got more and more absurd and less involving as it went along. The characters acted with stupidity masquerading as passion, reducing one’s sympathy for them, and the over-the-top drama and menace just started to seem ludicrous rather than chilling.
The fictional author’s books were supposed to be incredibly amazing and yet sold hardly any copies. Aside from this information, and a few vague statements about their contents, we get hardly any sense of these supposed masterpieces. Zafón’s novel, on the other hand, sold zillions of copies yet left me shaking my head, wondering what was the mass appeal. I can think of many other books that would be worthier blockbusters, with more memorable characters, more vividly described settings, and more satisfying plots. However, in the world of blockbuster books some titles seem to take on a life of their own until everybody has to read them, like it or not.
I am glad I finally read this one, but I will pass on more by this author. I would love to read more Spanish literature, though, so if you have any other recommendations let me know.
Have you read The Shadow of the Wind? Which camp do you belong to?