The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is set in Barcelona. It starts in the 1950s and spans several years, with the Spanish Civil War as a backdrop. There is a backstory that starts after World War I and spans the Spanish Civil War.
The story is about a boy, Daniel, who is invited to take a book from the Cemetery of Lost Books. He is drawn to a book which sets him on a long adventure that begins when he wants to find more works by the books author, Julian Carax. There are none to be found, and he is possessed with the curiosity to learn whatever he can about Julian. As he proceeds, he receives some very large offers for the copy of the book he possesses.
As Daniel uncovers fragments of Julian Carax’s life, the author gives us the story of Julian as the second story in the book. This story starts prior to the Civil War and starts to weave the house of mirrors with Julian and Daniel at the center.
The two stories, and many of their characters show a lot of similarities. It is like a house of mirrors, where aspects of one person are reflected in another, sometimes stretched, sometimes distorted, and sometimes reversed. Toward the middle of the book, this made it a bit difficult for me to follow and keep the characters straight.
The middle of the book seemed to flow rather slowly. Some promising events from early in the book seem forgotten and lost, my wife and I just wanted it to move along. With all the characters and similarities being thrown about, it became confusing.
As I reached the second half of the book, it started to get engrossing again. The events pick up and information becomes understood making the book difficult to put down.
As much as it is the story of Daniel and his investigations, it is also a story about human emotions and what they do to us. I felt the book was an exploration of love and hatred as much as it was a mystery about the book and its author, Carax.
I learned of the book from a BBC podcast on book reviews. It was so enticing I had to get the book to read. The book was originally published in Spanish, some of the pacing seemed more appropriate to their lifestyle. I think the translator did an excellent job. Although a difficult read at times, I enjoyed it and believe most readers will, as well.