The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Given that it’s a literary thriller with gothic undertones, I was hesitant to take on the book last weekend.I was seriously considering something light and cheerful to usher in vibes of good health and well-being.

But curiosity got the better of me and I am glad that it did. The book took me through an unparalleled literary journey superimposed in the bowels of pre- and post-war Barcelona. My good friend sent this book to me to help me recover from my chickenpox. It was quite a read, with a thick collection of a master plot where an array of lovely subplots hang. What better way to alleviate the itches of chickenpox; a riveting book such as this is affecting enough to take me out of myself, literally and figuratively.

Zafon is a real master with words. For the book, I can really say that there are few of its kind anywhere in the world. I find myself gasping at opportune cliffhanger moments in a way that does not completely rob me of my peace. Even before I succumb to despair at the characters’ turn of events, I end up being more mesmerized and enticed to read more and read until the very end. I finished it in one sitting. Small wonder that this was a 2001 bestseller. Many book critics even line him up with the ranks of Umberto Eco.

As someone who loves books, I found the theme, which revolved around literary ambition and books, completely endearing. It’s a book with a special affinity for bookworms, presumably written by a hardcore bookworm himself. In this review, I choose not to discuss on plot or provide any spoilers because any intrigued reader deserves to have the full and unadulterated experience of reading Zafon without my opinions and blow by blow account getting in the way.

Good research, a real talent for storytelling, and a diverse set of memorable characters fill the pages of The Shadow of the Wind. Most of the characters created by Zafon’s vivid imagination are as real as the person next door, only with different circumstances. He is able to turn the reveries and external events of the characters inside out with an effortless or natural air about it. And even tiny objects like an ancient pen, a burnt photograph, and many others take part in the entire story.

There is also that unnameable magic that comes with the palpable but non-overt way that Zafon is able to build up emotional scenes, and taking his reader with him as each of these key scenes unfold. You can smell the stench of cemeteries, and taste the desires of the main characters as clearly as one would smell one’s breakfast.Zafon made me understand his characters without boring me to tears.

There are writers who are average with storytelling but have impeccable grammar. Then there are masterful ones like Zafon who leave you a changed person after you read his work. Few authors have this ability; it’s like a divine gift that selects only the hands of the writing few.

 

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