First for the Year

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Grade: B

I am almost ashamed to admit that I only just finished reading my first book for the year. At nearly 500 pages, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is not exactly a quick read, but once upon a time I would have finished it within a week, maybe even a couple of days if it were a real page turner.

But The Shadow of the Wind is not a page turner. It is inconsistent, often awkward and occasionally rushed, with characters that you want to like but can’t because they’re incompletely drawn. The point of view shifts around, with massive sections of the story told by side characters, who omnisciently relate details of events they did not personally witness, indeed couldn’t have possibly known. It’s as if the author did not know how to bring all the threads of his story together so that they’d meet at the end. He sewed it all together like a novice tailor. Not only does the stitching look bad, but it won’t hold.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to like about the book. The prose is at times luscious. Parts of the story have a haunting quality. I think that scraps of it are likely to linger in the corners of my memory, like harmless little ghosts who occasionally rattle their chains softly to call attention to themselves. I liked the premise: that somewhere in Barcelona there is a secret library of lost books, the existence of which is known by only a chosen few. Inside that library one might find a book so wonderful that one has to find out what happened to its author, no matter how perilous the quest. Too bad the library didn’t feature more prominently in the story.

IMHO, what this book needed was some heavy editing. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but seriously, where are the editors these days? I have seen too many promising books fall flat because the editors didn’t make the writers work. It’s such a shame.

So I do not recommend The Shadow of the Wind, except as an example of a book that did not live up to its promise. Alas, there is no shortage of those!

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