The Cemetery of Forgotten books is a secret place in Barcelona; the knowledge of its existence is passed from generation to generation. Daniel Sempere is taken their by his father, a bookseller. Books, Daniel is told, have souls. They contain the souls of the author and the souls of all who read them and for whom they inspire dreams. Every time a library or a bookstore closes, the guardians of the books rescue them and protect them until they can be brought back into the light of day. The first time someone comes to the Cemetery of Forgotten books, they choose a book and it becomes the life-long responsibility of the person who takes it. The book Daniel chooses is THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Julian Carax.
Daniel is so enthralled by the book that he is determined to find all the other books written by the author. But he finds that someone is ahead of him, finding Carax’s books and destroying them. One day, Daniel, as an adult, is confronted by the man who is determined to erase Carax’s name and existence. Now, Daniel becomes determined to discover the secrets of the man who wrote THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and the man who wants it destroyed.
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a story filled with joy. Carlos Ruiz Zafon places the narrative in the period after WWII when Spain is controlled by Francisco Franco and there are spies everywhere, watching every moment of an individuals life. Daniel is shadowed by the police but he is also shadowed by the mysterious figure who wants his book. But this is a book about the power of words to transform lives, to broaden them, and make them richer. And so, there is joy and hope.
The Rap Sheet blog had a poll asking readers to vote on which mystery/crime novel was the best of the decade. THE SHADOW OF THE WIND didn’t win but I was reminded, again, of what a wonderful book it is.