The Shadow of the Wind | Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Do not ask me how I came across this book; all I remember is reading the description and thinking how intriguing it sounded. Which, once you read the book (or this little write-up), the mysterious origins of its way into my life seems entirely fitting.

The 2001 novel by Spanish author, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is exquisitely translated by Lucia Graves. The prose is fluid and elegant without being flashy, and I was sucked into the story right away.

The novel moves around in time and space but is mostly rooted in Barcelona over the first half of the Twentieth Century. A young boy, Daniel, is taken by his father to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

[T]his place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands.

Daniel is allowed to choose one book of his own. He finds The Shadow of the Wind written by Julián Carax. When he inquires about the author himself, Daniel soon becomes dragged into a mystery that finds its origins thirty years earlier in the 1910s. Also, while he is poking around in Barcelona’s community to find more answers, the dastardly Laín Coubert, “the man without a face,” is desperately after Daniel’s copy which he has full intention of destroying which he has done to all of Carax’s previous copies.

Like a good cover blurb, this book is filled with death, murder, mystery, corruption, yada yada. Because Zafón was masterfull at wrapping a good story together, I couldn’t help but think back to my own book that I have been working on FOREVER. The Shadow of the Wind winds itself around different characters, different decades, and at times, different perspectives. In an expertly manner, the author divulges information or holds it close to his chest to not reveal too much right away. I recommend this to everyone but especially people who are working on their own project that might becoming a massive, out-of-hand endeavor.

The characteristic that stuck out to me the most was the plotting. The prose was beautiful and Zafón’s plotting really made this book a delight. What really stood prominent was when to hold back information and when to release it. This led to a natural feeling of “detective” on the part of the reader. We have Daniel who is also looking for clues and is acting as our surrogate.

Finally! This is the first book for The [International] Reading List.

The 50 Page Rule [redux]

So, I titled this post [redux] because of some timely events. I originally was going to scribble about how I have a hard time sticking with my 50 Page Rule. A few years ago, I half-way allowed myself to put down a book if I was unable to “get in to it” around page 50. I know, it’s a hard rule to follow but it allowed me to feel less guilty when I had to put a book aside instead of remaining with it till its final page.

Yesterday, I was on NPR’s website when I ran across a review of Roberto Bolaño‘s The Third Reich. I was thinking to myself whether I would attempt the book or not. I read 2666 in its entirety when it came out in English and a large portion of The Savage Detectives. I started with the latter because the synopsis sounded so interesting. In layman’s terms, I just couldn’t get in to it. When 2666 came out in English, there was a huge hoopla. It had such an intriguing premise (which is altogether too complicated to try to sum up in a sentence or two). The monster of a novel (912 pages according to Amazon) did have its really compelling portions that intensified the mystery (the part about the critics and especially, the part about the crimes), but ultimately, I was terribly disappointed.

When I read the previously mentioned review, I couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit interested. I briefly remembered when the Paris Review was publishing excerpts and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve always had an interest in World War II history and the research concerning my novel-in-progress is heavily saturated in historical events from Nazi Germany. So, I was torn between skipping it altogether based on my previous opinions of Bolaño’s fiction or just utilizing the 50 Page Rule. I had not come to a conclusion and was still on the fence about the whole thing.

BUT, I spent Thursday evening with a few of my writerly friends–one who is an editor at Words Without Borders. When I was in Europe in October, he had contacted me about writing book reviews for WWB because of my interest in translation. We played email tag for the next few weeks until last night. He has a galley copy of The Third Reich for me to review.

The 50 Page Rule is going to have to be benched for this book but hopefully, I won’t regret it. Third times a charm, right?