Published by Penguin Books
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Barcelona, 1945—just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.
I had a hard time getting into this book. The language is beautiful but the plot just wouldn’t stick. I’d put it down and then wouldn’t remember any details the next time I tried to read it. If I wasn’t reading this for a read-a-long, I would probably have given up on it.
My first favorite passage was this one.
“These people who see sin everywhere are sick in their souls and, if you really press me, in their bowels. The endemic condition of the Iberian saint is chronic constipation.”
Every time she heard such blasphemy, Bernarda would make the sign of the cross five times over. Later, at night, she would say a prayer for the tainted soul of Mr. Barcelo,who had a good heart but whose brains had rotted away due to excessive reading, like that fellow Sancho Panza.
Then, about halfway through, it got interesting. The mystery of what happened to Julian Carax kicked in and I wanted to know what happened. It turned around for me with Fermin. He was a street person taken in by Daniel’s family to work in their bookstore. He has a mysterious past and a way with words and ladies. I loved listening to him talk and he liked to talk a lot.
“People talk too much. Humans aren’t descended from monkeys. They come from parrots.”
In the end I liked the book but wish it told more about the Cemetery of Lost Books.