Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Club: The Shadow of the Wind

I haven't written in quite a while, mostly because it's been very busy! Last week we had our July book club meeting. The book was "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. I really enjoyed the book, as did the other book club members. It's a global best-seller, and I've seen copies of it all over the place - my Isreali friend was reading a Hebrew copy in Barcelona, I saw it on my German friend's roommate's night stand, and it just keeps seeming to pop up, so I figured I'd better check it out.

Since the book is set in Barcelona, we decided to have our meeting at Jaleo, a Spanish restaurant in DC. That way we could enjoy sangria and tapas during the discussion. (And the food was great!)

The book is set in Barcelona just after the Spanish Civil War. The main character, a young boy, is brought to the cemetery of forgotten books, where he picks one to read and keep. He really enjoys the book and tries to track down further works by the author, only to find out that someone else has been searching for the books and burning every copy. The mystery plays out over many years and with a multitude of characters as the boy tries to figure out who's destroying the books and why.

The book was fun to read and kept you turning the pages. There were a number of themes I found very interesting.

I really liked the post-war aspect of the book. I think post-war literature and movies are really interesting and complicated of the pychological situation they put people in. After so much has happened, people need to come to grips with what people (and themselves) are capable of and figure out if and how they can return to normal life. (Sidenote: For a really interesting example of this, watch "The Murderers Are Among Us" - it was the first movie made in Germany after WWII.)

Of course, I loved the fact that it was set in Barcelona. After being there for the summer last year, lots of the street names and parts of town were familiar. The book even includes a map and a walking tour as an appendix!

I liked the theme of books being important. I think this is a fun thing I've seen once or twice before (like in "The Thirteenth Tale" by Dianne Setterfield) where a book glorifies how meaningful books can be. It's just gives it an interesting 'meta-story' feel.

The bildngsroman or coming-of-age aspect of the book was also interesting. When the book starts, the main character is about 10, and by the time it ends, he's 16 or 18 or so - basically grown up.

And the overall wealth of intriguing characters and unraveling mystery kept me turning pages.

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