It is after 2 am, apparently. Had I really been reading for that long? It hadn’t felt like it. I was still wide-awake, buzzing with excitement and adrenalin, having experienced a full spectrum of emotion. Two minutes ago, it had seemed, I had opened the final two hundred pages and told my self I would read till the end of the chapter. I was so mesmerised by the story, by its lucid writing, tragic heroes, evil villains, tragic villains and evil heroes, and mostly its unforgettable storyline, that I didn’t realise the hours that had passed. The page number became irrelevant, I was going to get the end and I did. When it was all over, I put the book down, disappointed, I hadn’t wanted it to end, but exhausted by the emotional veracity of its content.
This is a story of the tragedy of love, the hope of youth, the bleakness of age and the power of literature. The Shadow of the Wind is a story, within a story, where the sub-plots have sub-plots. It intertwines itself into a Barcelona of a different age, before the millions of tourists arrived and altered it forever. It is a reminder of how beautiful and moving literature can be. At times it makes you laugh, others it makes you cry, others it frightens you.
Combining brilliant story telling with memorable, vivid characters. Zafron’s majesty lies in the way he takes the reader deep into the lives of his characters. He makes us love them because we know their story.
We hope with them, we despair with them; we hold our breath knowing some of what comes next. Penelope, Julian, Miguel, Jacinta, Fumero, Nuria and Daniel are elevated because we know their story, their trials and hardships. Even Fumero, the novel’s main villain, has a tragic backstory. He is unable to let go of his past, of his lost love, of his sense of inferiority. He lashes all those around him, disloyal and savage, doing all he can to move up in the new world, so he can destroy the old world of which he was nothing.
Zafron doesn’t just show, he also tells; story after story, from the perspectives of the many different characters we come across, in evocatively written flashbacks.
He gives the characters a very authentic voice, especially the larger than life Fermin. Everything Fermin says feels his own, as opposed to that of a writer, moving a storyline along, shaping a character to his will.
It is easy to see now why millions have loved this book and why millions more will love it in the future.