The Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A bit of cut and paste here because I just can’t say it so elegantly…

From The Washington Post

“I was raised among books,” writes Daniel Sempere, “making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.” Young Daniel’s father runs a used bookstore in Barcelona; his mother died when he was 4, and he misses her desperately. One afternoon in 1945 the older Sempere informs his not quite 11-year-old son that he is taking him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. “You mustn’t tell anyone what you’re about to see today.” Daniel’s father tells him that “according to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive.” Daniel chooses — or perhaps is chosen by — “The Shadow of the Wind,” by Julian Carax.

Daniel loses himself in the book — we are never told too much about its gothic-thriller plot — and soon asks for other works by Carax, who seems to have been a Spaniard living in Paris during the 1920s and ’30s. He learns that his works are virtually impossible to find. Rumor has it that over the past 10 years or so a dark figure with a limp has bought up every Carax available, and that libraries and private collections have had their Carax titles stolen. It’s hinted that all the copies — never plentiful to begin with — have been burnt and that the man with the limp goes by the name of Lain Coubert. Daniel knows this name. In “The Shadow of the Wind” it is the one used by the devil.

And so Daniel plunges deeper and deeper into the enigma of Julian Carax and his accursed books, and along the way risking the lives and happiness of all those he loves. It grows ever more apparent that much that has seemed random or mad or unlucky — the burning of Carax’s novels, sudden disappearances, the blighting of so many lives — may be part of a larger insidious plan, that there are wheels within wheels.

Suffice it to say that anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should.

And now my little bit of thoughts:

“Scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling”? Sure, but that doesn’t quite describe it. To me it’s one big love story. A love story that, striped to its basic, maybe a little too cliche, but after the author spins his magic around, and add in the layers of mystery, adventure, fantasy, humor, gothic horror… it is one great story that grips you and won’t let go long after the last page is read. To me, the story is mostly about love: the passionate love between two teenagers, the heroic love between friends, and the enduring love between father and son.

Honestly, it’s rather hard to write too much about it without giving away the plot. Suffice to say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Impossible to put down once I started.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 3:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Jungle Child

by Sabine Kuegler

The book is way better than I thought it would be.

It begins with a idyllic childhood in the remote West Papua jungle, where her family went to live with the Fayu tribe, hitherto untouched by modern civilization. There Sabine ran wild in the jungle, swinging from vines like Tarzan, trading her family’s pots and pans for a baby crocodile, and throwing snakes at her sister. I won’t want Sabine as a sister… she is more a terror than my baby brother!

While the childhood is interesting, and the details of tribal life makes an intriguing anthropological read, and would make an entertaining book on its own, I enjoy even more how the book goes deeper into Sabine’s psychological confusion, as the girl grows up and realizes she is an in-between: totally unadapted to live in the complicated Western world, but also gone is the carefree girl who can run wild with her native friends. As her sister puts it: who will want to steal them as brides? They who don’t know how to prepare food or manage a household properly.

I really admire the author’s courage to live her life. I would love, howver, to hear more how the villagers are faring. While it is an inevitable fact of life, it is a pity to read about how as the author grows up, the siblings and her childhood friends go their own way. But at least she has a lovely, unforgettable childhood to treasure, and to give her strength.

The book’s website: There is an extract of the book. I do wish though she would post some of the photos there.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 2:30 am  Comments (1)  

How Proust Can Change Your Life

by Alain de Botton

Honestly I know very little of Proust’s work, just that he wrote sentences a mile long, so I am certainly not reading it because I am a fan. I do, however, find the book interestingly written enough that for someone unfamiliar with Proust and his work.

As I read on, I was thinking that maybe as the author and Proust himself suggested, an author’s book can be more interesting than the real person as it is a distillation of his best idea; and I certainly began to feel that I won’t particularly want to meet Proust himself. While he has keen insight of nature and mankind, his writings give me much to muse about, his personality doesn’t sound too pleasing. So I was somewhat surprised that Proust friends speak so highly of him, and I found it endearing that he could devote full attention to whoever he is speaking to and never consider people too lowly for conversation. Most people can certainly benefit from his example.

As an introvert booklover, I also find most amusing Proust’s comment that he considers book superior companion to human friends. If a book is boring, you can give a loud yawn, slap the book shut and shove it back onto the shelf without any guilt or apology.

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 2:35 am  Leave a Comment