Thursday, January 21, 2010

Carlos Zafon "The Shadow of the Wind"

I took The Shadow of the Wind out of the library about a month ago, before Nook. In an effort to contain costs associated with effortless instantaneous wireless book buying, I have imposed all sorts of artificial restrictions on myself. If I finish off that romance novel I never finished, I can buy a new nook romance. If I finish this library book I can pop for a $9.99 best seller on nook, etc. The games we play.

Anyway, this book was highly recommended by The Book Smugglers, as well as others so I was excited to be able to read it. It is, as everyone says, beautiful lyric prose that sweeps you into a world of betrayal and love. That said, I had a hard time with the lack of fleshed out characters. Fermin, the young protagonist's side kick is by far the most developed character, his extemporaneous discourses on the female form and on religious practices and institutions are wonderful and kept the book moving. But Daniel was such an observer of the story, you never felt him as a strong character. Even Julian, the mysterious author never inhabits the story in a meaningful way. This book was for me, the ultimate in telling, not showing. Arguably its some of the most beautifully elaborate telling you'll come across but in the end the whole thing dragged.

Let's talk about the women characters for a moment. First, Daniel's mother dies when he is young, leaving his father shrouded in sadness and distance. Then young Daniel falls in love with an older beautiful blind girl. This can't help but end badly but the author decides to have Daniel come upon her in bed with her lover, leaving her as acted upon, not an actor (by addressing his crush with him, etc.) Julian falls in love with Penelope at first sight, they are inexorably drawn to each other, she's no character at all except as an object of love for her governess, her father and then for Julian. Nuria Monfort gets involved in the story when she falls in love with Julian through his books. When she meets Daniel she is physically mesmerizing to him, lies to him, and while she is the most real women character, she gets stabbed brutally for her trouble supporting all these men throughout the story. Finally Daniel ends up with another woman, the love of his life and while I give the author credit for putting her in college, the only independent action she takes is to run away from her father, then she waits for Daniel to find her and rescue her (I really would not have depended on this guy; let's just say his spy skills are not impressive.)

The language of this book, translated from the Spanish, is intricate and amazing, but it didn't make up for the lack of true characters and the plodding length of the book. I'm glad I read it because I think it makes for an interesting discussion and the trope of stories within stories was enjoyable but I will probably be buying two books on my nook as reward because my effort on this one was great. :)

Historical Gothic Novel 2004: 2.5 of 5 eyelid-less eyes. (How would you sleep?)


Anonymous said...
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Marg said...

Reading preferences are a funny thing. I just posted how much I agree with you about Sherry Thomas, and yet here I am going to say I am opposite side of the spectrum. I absolutely loved this book. Loved the twists and turns, loved the gothickness, loved Barcelona as setting, to the point that I am too scared to read his latest book in case it doesn't live upto my expectations.

Anonymous said...

And I thought I was the only one who found it dragging!