Monday, June 14, 2004

A Must Read!

Monday is too benign a name for such a day as this. It needs a new name, something more realistic like hellday, or crapday or where-did-my-weekend-go-day. Anything but bland Monday. Who do I talk to about this? At least I have a good book to tell you about today. Back on May 26th I mentioned that I was reading a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I took my time in reading it because it was one of those books that deserve to be savored. And savor I did. But all good things come to an end and all books have their final sentence. I loved this book. It begins in 1945 post-war Barcelona. The character whose story this is, Daniel age 11, can no longer remember the face of his dead mother. To console him, his father, an antiquarian bookseller, takes Daniel to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The Cemetery is no cemetery at all, but a vast library of sorts to which the books that have been forgotten by the world make their way and sit, waiting for someone to find them and care for them again. Daniel is allowed to choose one book. He wanders the labyrinth and finally, when he thinks he will never find a book, a book finds him. That book is The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel now has the responsibility of taking care of this book for the rest of his life. A tall order, but one he accepts. Because, when he reads the book, he is so enchanted and enthralled by it that he wants to read Carax's other books. When he tries to find those books, he discovers that someone has been systematically hunting them down and burning them. Soon the person who is looking for the Carax books finds Daniel and Daniel must make a choice, protect the book or give it up to this stranger to be burned. And so begins a long journey where Daniel learns much about himself, his friends, his enemies, life and love. The writing is beautiful and compelling and the characters are unforgettable, particularly the intrepid Fermín Romero de Torres. The only spot where I was not fully engaged came toward the end during Daniel's reading of an over-long manuscript. But as soon as I was past that it was full speed ahead, leave-me-alone-until-I-finish-this reading. If this is Zafón's first book, I can hardly wait to read what he writes next.