Book Review: La Sombra del Viento

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One of my preferred methods of practicing a language is reading literature originally written in that language as well as watching movies in those languages. The added benefit I see is the cultural richness of these two methods. There are risks of falling into stereotypes, but my experience is that, if it is originally from a country that speaks that language, you will learn a lot about the culture.

Photo taken by stef niKo found on with license CC BY-SA 2.0

My latest Spanish-read is the bestselling novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón La Sombra del Viento or in its English title, the “The Shadow of the Wind.” Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish writer from Barcelona started his writing career in his late twenties after working in publicidad or publicity. His first novels were for a juvenil audience. His first novel was titled El príncipe de la niebla and was very successful both in sales and awards. After that, he published El palacio de la medianocheLas luces de septiembre, and Marina. The first three are part of a trilogy.  In 2001, Zafón moved to adult-focused literature with La sombra del viento. Although the novel had a slow start in Spain, it eventually won over the readers and was later translated into 36 languages.

The following video is an interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafón for a Spanish TV talk show. I highly recommend you to watch it!

What is it about

La sombra del viento tells the story of Daniel Sempere, son of the owner of a used books store. Daniel discovers the cementerio de los libros olvidados thanks to his dad who takes him in a type of rite of passage. Daniel is to choose one book he will keep with him forever, and this book ends up being La sombra del viento from a little-known writer from Barcelona named Julián Carax.

Daniel is completely taken away with this book, so much so that he begins to research Julián Carax’s life. Daniel is surprised to find out that there isn’t much record of him or much interest. After a lot of investigation, Daniel discovers that someone is out there trying to destroy all of Carax’s books. This makes Daniel even more curious and so begins the journey into Carax’s life.

The novel is filled not only with a very captivating plot that leaves you completely hooked, but it also has some unforgettable characters. Fermín Romero de Torres, a local bum whom Daniel and his father help is perhaps my favorite. Inspector Francisco Javier Fumero is another unforgettable character, although I doubt he can be anyone’s favorite.

Why I recommend it

Zafón’s experience in writing novels for a younger is present in this novel, but in a very subtle way. There is a bit of magic within the novel not to mention that it is clearly a coming-of-age story (of Daniel). However, this is a novel that all adults can love without feeling that it is infantile in any way.

Zafón also has an extraordinary voice. The way he untangles the story, so carefully and slowly, but keeping the reader hooked is very much to be admired. La sombra del viento is an easy read in the most complimenting way possible: as a reader, you like the story, you feel part of it and it is easy to read because you want to find out more. There is also so much of the Catalonian culture as well as Spain’s history from the industrial age all the way to the post-civil war era.

La sombra del viento is part of a four-novel series titled El Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados. I am looking forward to reading the next three books in the coming months.

Have you read La sombra del viento? What other Spanish-language books would you recommend?

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About the Author:Karoly G Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover!

I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!

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