Barcelona, a city like most grand cities. A little rundown, overpopulated with tourists and too many shops. A beautiful church smack in the middle and Gaudi influences everywhere.
That's my impression of Barcelona and apart from the very appetizing tapa I've eaten there, I wasn't awestruck.
That's not the Barcelona you'll come to meet when you read The Shadow of the Wind. Barcelona feels much grander and yet a lot smaller at the same time. While you walk the streets together with Daniel or Fermin, you feel the smog getting into your lungs, but you feel the spirit of its people as well.
This novel begins its journey in 1945, with a boy who has forgotten the face of this mother, who died while he was still a young child. His father, saddened but strong as well, takes him on a mysterious trip to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books which is guarded well and not well-known. Daniel may chose a book for his own, one he must cherish his entire life.
From all the books in that vast space, books about gardening or fishing, books with adventures, romances, crimes, he picks The Shadow of the Wind, a book written by Julian Carax.
Of course, he enjoys it very much, otherwise this novel would be short-lived. Amazed by this novel, he sets out to find out more about the author and that's when the premise for this novel truly begins. The search for Julian Carax.
I love books about books, maybe it's because I like to read about other people that like to read. It's like we're in some kind of secret society where only a good and steady number of turned pages can give entrance. The search for a particular unknown author in a country devastated by war and corruption is a formula that works well. It can be compared with The Book Thief which is another fine novel.
The Book Thief showed you a world from a girl's point of view, whereas Shadow of the Wind is remarkably male. That's the only thing that got in my way sometimes. Not that I'm discriminating, but this novel didn't come close to the emotional level of the The Book Thief. Liesel was an almost perfect protagonist, her entire family was what it needed to be in all the right places, to make it an unforgettable story. The Shadow of the Wind was an entertaining story, but it never connected with me emotionally. It's not going to be a story to reread.
Another thing that bothered me was the mental capacity of the main character, Daniel. He wasn't too quick on the dial, in my opinion. It felt most often like he was surfing the tide and letting it take him wherever it wanted, instead of taking matters into his own hands and finding out what he needed to know. In the end the conclusion of the novel was rushed when he found the letter from Nuria. It's like the perfect ending and that doesn't exist, so even in a novel which is entirely fictional, it feels cheap. It's not a crime to leave readers with a few questions. In life we don't always get all the answers, so why should be in books?