The gothic novel is not dead: Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind

There’s a lot of great literature out there, but the books that make you stay up late at night, the ones that make you ignore your phone, the ones that make you late to meet friends are few and far between.

If that is what you’re looking for, and you haven’t read The Shadow of the Wind, you have to read it. I’ve given away at least a dozen copies, for birthdays, holiday gifts, once even when a friend went through a bad breakup. Each friend is extremely different from the other and they all had unique qualifications for what makes a book good. And all of them loved it.

The Shadow of the Wind is a gothic novel set during the Franco regime in Spain. A father takes his son, Daniel, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to adopt a book and care for it. After a few years he searches for other books by the same author only to discover that someone is systematically destroying all of them. The young Daniel befriends a homeless person, Fermín Romero de Torres, and their friendship progresses throughout the novel. They become detectives looking for the truth of the books’ destruction. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books fulfills the dreams of all serious readers. You want to believe that the books you love will be saved for all eternity. You need to know that other people cherish and respect the same things you do. It’s lovely to dream of a community devoted to keeping books safe. Yes, there are libraries, but they are not always the safest place for books that are considered dangerous or subversive.

I just finished rereading The Shadow of the Wind in preparation for Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s conversation with Isabella Allende. His new book, The Prisoner of Heaven, is in the same book cycle as Shadow and The Angel’s Game. They each stand alone and can be read in any order. His latest book is almost as great as Shadow. It’s another masterpiece that is part Victorian gothic and part mystery. The shadows become clear as we finally learn Fermín’s past. The characters are further developed and the story first moves backwards before moving forward.

This book feels like a classic the moment you begin reading. It’s dark and gothic like Daphne du Maurier‘s Rebecca. The landscape sticks with you like the dock in F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby. And there isn’t a mislaid word, just like Hemingway. It’s great to read the first time and just as great the second time around.

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