The Shadow of the Wind


  • Media: #Books #Books 2021
    • Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
    • Status: read
    • Date: 2021-01-13
    • Tags: #historical #fiction #mystery #lush #Spanish
    • Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
    • Idea richness: ★★★☆☆
    • Links: Highlights, Goodreads


"About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind."

When his bookseller father takes 10-year-old Daniel to the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the boy's life is forever changed. He discovers The Shadow of the Wind and what follows is a sprawling gothic mystery that threatens to consume his adolescence and his life as reality begins to mirror fiction. Determined to unravel the mystery, Daniel investigates the book's enigmatic author, Carax, whose life reveals strange parallels to his own, while navigating post-war Spain and characters from Carax's life and fiction who would rather the past stayed buried.


"Chance, or its more flamboyant relative, destiny."

  • Obsession vs love
  • Strings of the past
  • Growing up
  • Cowardice and conflict beyond your control
  • Fate


"And, like all true stories, it begins and ends in a cemetery, although not the sort of cemetery you imagine."

I was determined to like The Shadow of the Wind. Amazing quotes, lush writing, and a gothic book comes to life style mystery; what’s not to love? Unfortunately, the book itself.

Picture Jane Eyre in Barcelona and then dial up the gothic to Phantom of the Opera with murder, visions, beatings, and a good deal more boobs on display. It might brand itself as gothic but by the end it felt far more noir with femme fatales throwing themselves on obsessive mystery men.

Things I loved...

  • Sumptuous, atmospheric writing.
  • The slow burn mystery draws you in, even as it drags on and on.
  • The backdrop of the facist takeover in Barcelona and hints at the bloody conflict whose after effects which ripple through the city and all the characters. Made me want to read up on the history which I know shamefully little about.
  • There are some wonderful quotes buried in here.

Things I didn't...

"Show me a Don Juan and I’ll show you a loser in disguise."

  • Our protagonist, Daniel, is an obsessive boy who wavers between his stalker tendencies towards the current female fixation of his life and lustful descriptions of whoever the latest woman he happened to bump into is. His fixation with the Carax mystery is another dangerous obsession that he relentlessly pursues for no great reason (something about his mother or something but... not really).
  • The parallels between Daniel and the mysterious gothic author he is investigating are part of the appeal but they ultimately go nowhere. The connections ended up more coincidental and ‘what life could have been’.
  • The mystery within a mystery proved disappointing. The Carax mystery was the last intrigue that kept me skimming towards the end but SPOILERS surprise incest is not a plot twist I enjoy /SPOILERS.
  • Call me a prude or whatever but the treatment of every single female character and incidents of depraved violence was icky and became progressively harder to stomach, especially when played off as comedy. The violence you could argue is appropriate for the bloody history and over the top gothic nature so could be more of a personal preference. But the endless descriptions of undressing someone with their eyes, followed by Fermin pontificating on women’s nature and figure, followed by yet another weird obsessive ‘romance’ got old.


"Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it yourself."

  • "‘Latin, young man. There’s no such thing as a dead language, only dormant minds."
  • "He had a good understanding of history and knew that the future could be read much more clearly in the streets, factories, and barracks than in the morning press."
  • "Presents are made for the pleasure of the one who gives them, not for the merits of those who receive them."
  • "People are evil.’ ‘Not evil,’ Fermín objected. ‘Moronic, which isn’t quite the same thing. Evil presupposes a moral decision, intention, and some forethought. A moron or a lout, however, doesn’t stop to think or reason. He acts on instinct, like an animal, convinced that he’s doing good, that he’s always right, and sanctimoniously proud to go around fucking up, if you’ll excuse the French, anyone he perceives to be different from himself, be it because of skin colour, creed, language, nationality or, as in the case of Don Federico, his leisure pursuits. What the world really needs are more thoroughly evil people and fewer borderline pigheads.’"
  • "A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept."
  • "Like all old cities, Barcelona is a sum of its ruins. The great glories so many people are proud of - palaces, factories, and monuments, the emblems with which we identify - are nothing more than relics of an extinguished civilization."
  • "His main interest, apart from sketching and contradicting every living soul..."
  • "Few things are more deceptive than memories."
  • "‘And keep your dreams,’ said Miquel. ‘You never know when you might need them.’"
  • "Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen."
  • "Everything we know about him is third-hand gossip,’ said Barceló. ‘When everyone is determined to present someone as a monster, there are two possibilities: either he’s a saint or they’re not telling the whole story."
  • "Only someone who has barely a week left to live could waste his time the way I wasted mine during those days."
  • "Far from gloating about his manic work ethic, he would joke about his obsessive activity and dismiss it as a minor form of cowardice. ‘While you’re working, you don’t have to look life in the eye.'"

Scrapbook Concepts

  • the Cemetery of Forgotten Books #locations
  • ‘Some things can only be seen in the shadows,’
  • fellows of the secondhand-booksellers’ guild #factions
  • ‘This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.
  • a café on Calle Montsió, where Barceló and his bibliophile knights of the round table gathered to discuss the finer points of decadent poets, dead languages, and neglected, moth-ridden masterpieces. #locations
  • the pen was possessed by the tortured soul of its previous owner, a novelist who had died of hunger.
  • He was a very private person, and although he lived in the past, he hardly ever mentioned it. #characters
  • I realized he didn’t smell of tobacco, but of burned paper. Good paper, the sort used for books. #characters #fragments
  • Homeless drifter who insists and acts like he was a secret agent #characters
  • The room was infested with crucifixes. They hung from the ceiling, dangling from the ends of strings, and they covered the walls, hooked on nails. There were dozens of them. You could sense them in every corner, carved with a knife on the wooden furniture, scratched on the floor tiles, painted red on the mirrors. #rooms
  • Hooded spirits that came out of walls and ate people’s ideas while they slept #creatures
  • ...who had just returned from a triumphant raid on an illegal betting and beetle-racing establishment #locations
  • ‘Julián lived in his books. The body that ended up in the morgue was only a part of him. His soul is in his stories. I once asked him who inspired him to create his characters, and his answer was no one. That all of his characters were himself.’ ‘So if somebody wanted to destroy him, he’d have to destroy those stories and those characters, isn’t that right?’
  • The house is called “The Angel of Mist” #locations
  • For weeks Gelabert and his men shot miles of film that was then developed in different tanks using chemical solutions diluted with exotic liqueurs, red wine blessed in the Ninot parish church, and all kinds of cava from the Tarragona vineyards. Between screenings, Jausà transferred powers, signed authorizations, and conferred the control of his financial reserves to Ricardo Aldaya. --> convinced film will show hauntings
  • One of the characters she would see repeatedly in her dreams was someone called Zacarías, an angel who was always dressed in black and who was accompanied by a dark cat with yellow eyes whose breath smelled of sulphur. #characters
  • The city of the dead was a vast abyss guarded by an army of rotting stone statues sinking into the mud. #locations
  • the mysteries of Notre Dame; about a ghostly barge that was said to cleave the waters of the Seine at night, gathering up the souls of desperate lovers who had ended their lives by jumping into the frozen waters. #fragments