Shadow of the Wind: a Story for the Stouthearted

For those who love the ghosts lying deep in the heart of old European cities, Carlos Ruiz Zapon’s Shadow of the Wind is not to be missed. I had just begun reading this book when a writer acquaintance told me she loved the story so much she cried when it ended. For me the book was so enthralling I was almost relieved to be free of its spell. Set in Barcelona in the 1950s during Franco’s rule, the story stretches to the edge of reality and back, never breaking the ominous sense of drawing closer and closer to a truth you aren’t sure you want to know.

Deep in the heart of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, eleven-year-old Daniel Sempere is invited by his father to choose a book which he must adopt, making sure it stays alive, for life. Here he sees, its title gleaming in the light as though waiting for him, Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. The story, a man’s search for his real father, “becomes a ghostly odyssey … in which the shadow of a cursed love slowly surfaced to haunt him until his last breath.”

Captivated by the story, Daniel sets out to find its author, but Julian Carax has disappeared as have all of his books except the copy he discovered. Daniel’s and Julian’s odyssey runs side by side, ever more closely resembling the book which “split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections.”

The disparate stories of beggar-turned-confidant, Fermin, the beautiful Clara Barcelo, and best friend Tomas Aguilar, draw Daniel closer to Julian’s tale, haunted by two shadows: the cruel and ruthless Fumero and Coubert, a man with a face burned beyond identity. But not until Daniel falls in love with Tomas’s sister, Beatriz, does the shadow of Julian’s life, “cursed by a doomed love,” become his own.

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