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Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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A bookseller in Pleasanton, California recommended The Shadow of the Wind. I found myself in the middle of a business trip without anything to read, and stopped in a small bookstore to find something escapist. The book certainly accomplishes that: it takes place in post-civil war Barcelona, and tells the story of Daniel Sempere, the son of a bookseller, who discovers the novel The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax.

Daniel seeks to learn more about the writer Carax, and discovers that someone who names himself after a diabolical character in one of Carax's books is searching out and destroying all remaining copies of Carax's novels. The story tells of Daniel's attempt to unravel this mystery. Daniel is 10 years old when he first discovers Carax, and the adventure coincides with his growing up and discovering both what is wonderful and sensual and what is evil and damnable in the adult world.

In many ways the book reminds me of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. It doesn't contain supernatural elements, but it tells a story of people discovering the world through books, bookstores, and book people. It also involves a world alien to me, perhaps not quite as exotic as Kostova's Eastern Europe, but still unknown, gothic, mysterious and beautiful.  The writing is wonderful, and, for that, translator Lucia Graves deserves high marks. It flows naturally and poetically, and make it easy to envelop oneself in the story.

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