Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (audio)


Listening to this book has been long in coming. As usual, I felt I was the last to read it, and had heard dozens of bloggers raving about its sultry, atmospheric content. I ordered it on audio from the library, quickly uploaded it, then realized it was short one disc. The library accused me of losing it, I had to accuse them of being Communists, and it got ugly before my honor was restored. Then of course, once the dust settled, I had to order it again, in order to upload the missing disc. Three months later, here I am.

It was not a short audio...17 discs. But what a tale. I find myself almost dreading the task of summarizing my thoughts. I hope I can do it justice, as it has the makings of a true classic. It is a story about book lovers for book lovers, which I believe is why it has touched the hearts of so many of you.

Tween-aged Daniel and his father live in pre-WWII Barcelona where they own and run a bookstore. Daniel's mother has recently died, and to ease Daniel's pain, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library of old, forgotten but preserved texts. Promising never to tell another soul, Daniel is allowed to choose one book, provided he vows to adopt and protect the book for life. Daniel chooses the book "Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax. The book captures his imagination, and soon Daniel attempts to find out more about the mysterious author. No one seems to know the fate of Carax, except that all of his books (except Daniel's) have been absconded and burned by a shadowy, disfigured man named Lain Coubert. The name Coubert just happens to be a character from one of Carax's stories; a character that represents the Devil.

Daniel befriends a homeless war veteran, Fermin Romero de Torres, who begins to work in the bookstore. Fermin and Daniel begin to investigate the life of Carax in earnest, and find themselves dragged down a dark path of no return. They come face-to-face with the author's life of sadness, fear, passion, friendships, unrequited love, bitterness and revenge. The lines between Carax's life and Daniel's life seem amazingly parallel and begin to blur, to the point where I even began to get confused whose life we were reading about. Daniel and Fermin's efforts become less a fact-finding mission and more a life-threatening situation when they butt heads with Carax's childhood friend turned mortal enemy, the murderous Francisco Javier Fumero.

There were many visuals that this story conjured in my mind's eye, the very best of them the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Doesn't your literary heart just long to see something like this? You can almost imagine the unearthly stillness, the smell of old paper, and the thousands of lovingly protected stories kept there. The characters in this tale are larger than life, caricatures almost. I received the most pleasure and entertainment from Fermin Romero de Torres, a slightly off-center, passionate man, haunted by the past but determined to live life to its absolute fullest, with vigor. He reminded me so much of my father-in-law. The tale would also win an award for the most detestable, the most evil antagonist with Fumero. My skin crawled every time he spoke.

I must spend a little time talking about the audio production. The narrator, Jonathan Davis, was perfection. His voice is professionally neutral at one moment, the next moment the Spanish names and places and streets of Barcelona are rolling off his tongue as if it is his native language. He embodies a youthful voice for Daniel, an animated, expressive, Spanish-accented one for Fermin, and a maniacal, spine-chilling one for Fumero. And intermittently throughout the production, we are treated with beautiful, haunting piano music written by the author himself. Have a listen:




So if you haven't read this book yet, have I convinced you? If you have read it, have I done it justice? This is one of those rare books that transport you to a different country, a different time, to the point where you will forget where you are. It is a tale of mystery and passion and misfortune - it could rival a Shakespearean tragedy. Yet, it never loses its charm and beauty.

5 out of 5 stars

37 comments:

Book Bird Dog said...

I read the book and loved it all the way to 5 stars too. You've convinced me I must get the audio!

Alice Teh said...

I knew I should've bought this book when I saw it in the bookstores! Your review of the audiobook makes me want to go run out and get it now BUT BUT BUT I'm on a book ban at the moment, so I'll have to wait.

I'm glad that the saga with the librarian ended with nobody getting hurt in the process...

Sandy Nawrot said...

Harvee - it really is wonderful. The narrator has a beautiful, silky smooth voice, I felt I was being seduced!

Alice - no blood was drawn thankfully. But it was a personal affront to me that they would accuse ME, the most dedicated library lover in Orlando, of losing a disc and not owning up to it!!! The nerve!

Beth F said...

I'm almost glad I read (listened to) this book in my pre-blogging days so I didn't have to review it!

I pushed this book on everyone after I finished it. Haunting, absorbing, other worldly.

JoAnn said...

OK, so now I'm the last one to read this! Even my mother and sister have read it, and I'm usually the one the gives them recommendations. Seriously, it's been on my shelf for at least a couple of years, but now I'm wondering if I should get the audio instead.

Molly said...

I have picked up this book to read twice in the past three weeks, and somehow never get very far (too many other distractions in life). I think I should try the audio, as you have made the narrator sound most irresistible :)

caite said...

gosh, it sounds like a winner. but I just can't seem to do audiobooks.
I would have to go text.

LisaMM said...

I've never listened to a book on audio, probably because I don't have a commute, so I'm without a big chunk of time in which to listen. But the book sounds really good, esp. the part about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.. great review!

Madeleine said...

I have this book on y TBR, I am reviewing a few books for Hachette at this time but will move it up to the top

Sandy Nawrot said...

Beth - It was really really hard to write the review. I had a stomach ache thinking about doing it. There are just some books I can't do justice.

JoAnn - I tend to be put off by big chunky books, but for some reason, long audio books don't (maybe with the exception of the Outlander audios). And when you get an excellent narrator, I just find myself swept away, as I was with this one. You might try the audio. Just take the plunge!

Molly - I looked up the narrator...he's cute too!

Caite - still worried about cutting off your toes? I know plenty of people that read this hard book, and loved it. You should give it a try!

Lisa - audios also make cleaning the house a treat as well!

Dar said...

Well you convinced me Sandy. I just put the audio on hold at the library although I have a bit of a wait - there are 8 ahead of me.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Dar, as you can read, it took me months to get to it, but I swear it is worth the wait! Hopefully the people renting the audio just upload it and bring it back quickly!

The Bumbles said...

Sold. But no audio - I need to read a book about books or I would feel like I was cheating on it.

I'm sorry you had to resort to calling your librarian a communist ;0)

Andreea said...

I'm glad you liked it so much! I haven't read this one, but I read The Angel's Game by the same author and I liked it very much.

ds said...

Shadow of the Wind was a pre-blog read, but most enjoyable (I loved the idea of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, too). This is a perfect review, Sandy; you more than do the book justice! In fact, you make me want to listen to the audio version, just for the narrator's voice. Well done!

Iliana said...

Definitely you did justice to it! :)

Loved this book. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about his new book but I still want to read it!

Craftymoose Crafts said...

I'm a bead artist and spend most days making french beaded flowers--to the detriment of my house, of course! I've only listened to one audio book--a Steven King. I'm going to try this one while I am working! Thanks for the review.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I loved Shadow Of The Wind. In fact, I bought The Angel's Game as soon as it came out, just because I loved Shadow so much.

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books sounds incredible, and it's one of my "heaven"ly dreams.

Nymeth said...

Argh, I'm sorry to hear about your misadventures with the library! But it sounds like the book was well worth the wait. I borrowed a copy of this not too long ago and I need to get to it soon!

bermudaonion said...

Sorry to hear your library is run by Communists! LOL I haven't read this book yet and yes, you've convinced me that I need to!

Alyce said...

We read this one for book club recently, and I agree with you that Fumero is one of the most despicable villains ever. I didn't listen to the audio, but I'm glad to hear that it's so good. The right narrator can make all the difference when it comes to listening to an audiobook. There have been a few that I haven't been able to finish because the narrator's voice grated on me so much.

I still haven't gotten all of my thoughts together for my review of this book, but I'll be posting it some time in the next week or so.

DesLily said...

this was an excellent book! the writing was so good I sent for and just received his second book the Angels Game... i hope it is as good!

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

This is another one thats been sitting on my shelf forever! Maybe I'll add it to my book list for Diane's challege...Your review definitely has my interest!

Melody said...

Great review, Sandy!
I've heard a lot of great things about this book and your 5-stars rating has further convinced me to add this book to my wishlist! :P

Valerie said...

I've read this book twice (both times pre-blogging) and once I finally get to reading "The Angel's Game" I bet I'd want to read it a third time.

I thought the love story in this book involving Penelope was so sad, also.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Bumbles - it was a last resort, but they weren't giving me any respect.

Andreea - I've got Angel's Game loaded on the iPod and ready to go!

ds - awww, you are so nice! He really is a wonderful narrator. You should just try to get your hands on it via library or something, and if not listen to the whole thing, just the first disc. You will swoon.

Iliana - well, that is always my fear on books like this. It is almost too big and good for words. (At least MY words!)

Craftmoose - that would be perfect! I didn't know you beaded. I good friend of mine is really into that. I even dabbled with it, making bookmarks.

Cookie - it is simply a dreamy, haunting image, and I love it!

Nymeth - no worries...the librarian and I are once again on speaking terms. This book reminds me alot of The Thirteenth Tale. Everyone talks about it!

Kathy - well, I'm not totally sure they are, but that is how I felt in the heat of the argument! I felt like I was being unfairly condemned!

Alyce - I know, I've dropped audios before because of the voice of the narrator. Or suffered through it, knowing that the book itself was good but was being ruined. It doesn't happen often though. Fumero was detestable! I love it!

DesLily - Frankly I am a little nervous. How can it live up to Shadow? I even read some review where people had to shelve it. Yikes.

Melissa - yes, definitely put it on that list. It really is phenomenal.

Melody - just like I said to Melissa, this one deserves your love.

Ti said...

Shadow is hands down one of my fave books of all time.

Nicole said...

This has been sitting on my shelf for literally, years. I hear such god things about it and I will read it soonish. I just hadn't realized that it was long as to warrant 17 compact discs. Yikes!

Amy said...

I think I am one of the few people who hasn't heard of this book but you've convinced me I must read it, it sounds wonderful. I can go audio or print so whichever I get first i'll go with!

C.B. James said...

I'd like to confess that I have a secret love for the music played in the between chapters of audio-books.

Your review certainly captured the enthusiasm so many of us have for The Shadow of the Wind.

Are you off to "read" The Angel's Game next?

Sandy Nawrot said...

Ti - I can totally see why. It's one of those books that just carries you away...

Nicole - yeah, that is a bit long, but you aren't really weighed down by that. After hitting my personal record of listening to the latest Outlander (47 discs) this was a breeze!

Amy - I would put it on the short-term TBR list. Don't let the size mess with your head - it is fast reading!

James - well, let's just say I have it loaded on my iPod. When I'll get to it, I'm not sure. I'm about to wrap up Girl With the Dragon Tatoo on audio, and will let the spirit guide me to my next listen. I've heard some that have been disappointed with Angel's Game, which scares me some.

Charley said...

I discovered your blog through My Friend Amy. I recently bought a used copy of this book, and I'm hoping to read it soon.

J.T. Oldfield said...

17 discs? That is long! It sounds like it was worth it though!

Matt said...

My heart almost fell out of my chest when I read the book, but I didn't see the end coming. It might be wonderful to revisit the book through audio. :)

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for the video clip, Sandy. I listened as I read your review. I will probably be the last person to read this one. LOL I do hope to, just haven't managed to yet. You make it especially enticing. Great review.

farmlanebooks said...

I have to admit that I didn't make it to the end of Shadow of the Wind. I read it a long time ago, so I can't remember exactly why I gave up, but you have convinced me to try the audio version. Hopefully I'll find some new appreciation for it.

Anna said...

Sounds like the librarians are real peachy. I don't think I'll read this one any time soon, as my TBR is ready to topple, but I'll definitely keep it in mind.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric