book: The Shadow of the Wind, Zafon

I’ve been reading “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Zafon.  It is actually a gift from Sinterklaas as I had the joy a few weeks ago to be with Mari-Carmen, Theo and Andrea in Utrecht at ‘Sinterklaas‘ (5th December, St Nicholas Day), the day when Santa delivers presents in Holland (maybe his dry run each year to get into shape ready for the big run on Christmas Eve).  I hadn’t expected Santa to remember me in Utrecht as he will be visiting Tiree this week.  However, to my joy I also had gifts including this book1.

What can be more enchanting than a book about books, a book that starts with the finding of a book, where the protagonist is brought up in a bookshop, has parents who met in a bookshop and who falls in love during the reading of a book.

Zafon creates an entangled plot where the characters in the book and the characters in the book that is in the book sometimes seem to almost merge into one another; a whodunnit ranged around dusty bookshelves, tattered undelivered letters, the lonely, the haunted and the deranged, all set in the rain-soaked streets of post-war Barcelona.

The Shadows of the Wind is full of wonderful phrases, often wry or ribald, but always perceptive, which cry out to be quoted:

On Latin: “There’s no such thing as a dead language, only dormant minds

On the impact of TV: “Humans will return to living in caves, to medieval savagery, and to the general state of imbecility that slugs overcame back in the Pleistocene era.

On courtship and gender: “you’re the man, and must take the lead … One has to pay some price for being able to pee standing up.

On the sound of teachers: “Years of teaching had left him with that firm didactic tone of someone used to being heard, but not certain of being listened to.

On action: “destiny does not do home visits. You have to go for it yourself.

Just as The Shadows of the Wind starts with a book and a secret, so it ends with a book and a secret, stories repeat, but sometimes get rewritten.

  1. I strongly suspect that Mari-Carmen helped Sinterklaas by advising a good choice of book.[back]