Set in 1940s war-scarred Barcelona, Zafon’s novel is based around a young man, Daniel, and his interest in a mysterious novel, also titled The Shadow of the Wind. Daniel finds the book in ‘the Cemetary of Forgotton Books’, a bizarre library which houses neglected novels.
Daniel’s interest in the volume verges on obsessive. When it emerges that a menacing individual is steadily seeking out and burning all the copies and is now after Daniel too, he turns to the biography of Julián Carax, the writer, to help solve the mystery. Events in Daniel’s life odly echo those in Carax’s, deepening the intrigue.
The Shadow of the Wind tries very hard to be thrilling, but sometimes seems to be trying too hard. The coincidences (a staple of all thrillers) sometimes just happen too often.
In addition, female readers may not be too comfortable with the ‘male gaze’ which objectifies the female characters. The descriptions of women border on something from a Barbara Cartland novel, remeniscient of romantic, slushy literature.
A gripping read, set in a beautiful city, but perhaps a little condescending.