The first time I heard of this book was in 2004 when Powerbooks was touting it as the next book to watch out for. I knew immediately that I wanted to read it but having so much books on my reading plate (then and still now), I felt that it could wait. So I ended up buying the hardcover as a gift instead for a fellow Anne Rice Philippines member and he in turn gave me the audiobook set for The Lives of the Mayfair Witches. I felt that was a good trade.
Years later, like Daniel Sempere, in the book, I would chance upon the trade paperback version of the book at a Book Sale branch and relished the treasure of a find I had. But like all readers who would want more time with ALL of their books, it became another casualty to other books that took precedence up until I found an unabridged version on audiobook Cd format for a steal at another Book Sale branch. This time I knew I had to get into this and not be left behind. Throughout my drive to and from work, the haunting story of ten year old Daniel and his search for truth regarding the mystery surrounding the author of the book in question, who is equally is as elusive as his other copies of his books in the novel proved to be the enchanting tale that it is. It transported me out of the traffic laden streets of Manila and into a simpler and yet darker and dangerous streets of Post Spanish Civil War Barcelona of the 1930’s.
The book opens with Daniel Sempere, son of second hand book store owner, being brought to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a old haven of a library for books that have almost been forgotten but kept and preserved for all lovers of antique and obscure books. There he meets the caretaker of the establishment, Isaac Monfort and is told that whoever comes to the library the first time must choose a book, adopt it as his and makes sure that the book will be preserved and guaranteed an owner and a home. Somehow, the Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax is the book that Daniel chooses and immediately he is transported into the tale brilliantly spun by Carax which leaves him wanting more of his works and equally more information about the author.
He thus finds himself in a search for the threads of Carax’s life, while his own life and growing adolescence mirrors Carax’s own. On top of that, he also must deal with his obsession with Clara Barcelo, the blind daughter of Gustavo Barcelo, a friend of his father and in addition a new found friend in the form of a homeless man, whom he took in to help with the book shop. This man who goes by the name of Fermin Romero de Torres who we later find is a military man and is being pursued by the main antagonist in the novel, the evil, vengeful and corrupt Inspector Javier Fumero.
And as if Daniel’s plate wasn’t enough, there is also a mysterious lurking figure, who is horribly burnt and hides in the shadows and poses a threat to his own life and also in want of the Carax book that he possesses.
Newfound love, Tarnished love, Envy, Greed, Bitterness, Frustration and other elements of a varied human condition is one that a lover of the written word will find in reading this book. My interest in it was equally buoyed by the brilliant narrative and character voicing of the audiobook narrator, Jonathan Davis, who effortlessly shifts from one voice to another as the task of voicing different characters solely rests on him.
As one further gets into the story, more stories of other people that are just pieces of the puzzle of a tragic life lived by Julian Carax may overwhelm some readers in want of a more traditional and linear way of storytelling, but in the end, all the lives lived by every individual in the book, hastens Daniel’s maturity as he graples with life, with love, with loss and with the promise that if one is in search of the truth, the search will ultimately extract a price of its own for it, but if one is ready for the ride and for the result, then it is a journey worth taking.
Read on and discover how other people’s lives and relationships may at times mirror facets of our own and in learning about others, we learn more about ourselves and the wisdom behind the choices that we make in our lives, everyday.