I will sum up this novel like this:
- Beautiful prose
- Well woven classic formula of conflict, love, suspense, resolution
You can say this is a love story, a tragedy, a mystery, romance (even eroticism — but artfully done). A story of fear, bravery, betrayal, triumph. Of villians, lovers, and heroes.
The story is a tease. It flirts with you without you knowing why you keep wanting to go back. Like a striptease act that sheds its facade as you turn its pages, revealing the mystery.
“Who’s the man with the scarred faced?” I could only nurture my suspicious but can’t confirmed until it’s revealed near the end.
Julian Carax, who tried to find love and his soul in his youth, and then tried to destroy his past.
A repeat of the past, echoed in the relationship of Bea and Daniel.
Daniel is a boy growing up in Barcelona, set in the days before WWII, after the civil war (I think). He is introduced to a book, which he is sworn to protect (kinda strange but the idea sort of works, as part of the whole out-of-world feel, yet there are enough strands of current reality that i can connect to the book).Then he meets a mysterious and sinister character who was intent on getting hold of his book. Matters are complicated by the appearance of Fermin and Fumero, the latter is the chief of the secret police intent on tormenting the former.
Then they discover connections between how Julian is connected to the Aldayas, and to Fumero… Oops, enough being given away.
The title of the novel is the title of the book Daniel is sworn to protect. But it doesn’t say what the novel is about. You could probably try to draw analogies from this, though i feel it’s a metaphoric representation of all this human relations, and needs (destroy a book), murder (Fumero wants to silence those who know his past). It’s all as real and important as the wind’s shadow. Meaning, there really isn’t such a thing, is there?
The novel works because it doesn’t allow you to stop and wonder. You are pulled along until the end, and i should say, the reader would probably willingly be pulled along, suspending one’s belief and simply enjoying the tale.
The turning point of the novel, for me, was in the revelation of how Jorges, Julian, Miguel, Fumero, Penelope, Ricardo Aldaya are all connected. We learn of the reason for Ricardo’s rage.
It’s a growing up and coming of age tale, as young daniel confronts his own infatuation with Clara and finally his declaration of love to Bea.
There are scandals (relationship between Julian Carax, Penelope, Don Ricardo Aldayas, and Julian’s mother), appealing to the coffeeshop gossipers in all of us.
Definitely a Must-Read.
Quotes that I love:
p 3 “I remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper.”
p8 “… Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.”
Beautiful lyrical sentences. p17. Quote par 1 “That Sunday, clouds spilled down from the sky and swamped the streets with a hot mist that made the thermometers on the wall perspire.”
Snippets of philosophy p77 “presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not for the merits of who receives them”
p96 par 2 last line “Tomas is going to have a hard time in academic circles with that boxer’s face if his. In this world the only opinion that holds court is prejudice.”
p186 “what matters isn’t what one gives but what one gives up”
Connected by a book, and a pen. P424
p427 “what is really killing him is loneliness. Memories are worse than bullets.”
p428 par 2 “Wars have no memory, and nobody has the courage to understand them until there are no voices left to tell what happened, until the moment comes when we no longer recognize them and they return, with another face and another name, to devour what they left behind.”
p444 par 1 “Does the madman knows he’s mad? Or are the madmen those who insist on convincing him of his unreason in order to safeguard their own idea of reality?”
p446 “so long as we are remembered, we remain alive.”