There Are Worse Prisons Than Words

Contains spoilers

When I finished The Book Thief for the first time, I swore to myself that I would never find a book like it in all my life. I don’t know what I expected, because I did not stop reading and people did not stop writing, and it so happens that I have found another Book Thief.

I got The Shadow of the Wind from a friend. It follows the story of Daniel, a boy who stumbles across a book which also happens to be called The Shadow of the Wind. The book is by a mysterious and now apparently defunct author, Julian Carax, and is the last copy in print. Just to add to the ambiguity, a sinister and faceless character is known to devote his life to burning copies of Carax’s work. After becoming enthralled with the book, Daniel finds himself on a harrowing quest to find out what happened to Julian Carax, and is soon tangled up in the poignant stories of the people who Carax left behind.

As it always is with truly good books, that brief summary does not in any way do it justice.

I have never read a book before where the stories of two sets of characters are so closely and cleverly intertwined. The life of Daniel and the life of Julian appear to have come from the same set of blueprints – and as i observed Daniel’s slow discovery of what Julian has lost, the ending of the book and Daniel’s fate loomed with more and more dread. Carlos Ruiz Zafon made the reader believe that Daniel was Julian, right up until the very end – at which point Daniel is shown to save what Julian was always condemned to lose.

This was a clever, harrowing and at times terrifying book, but more so it was a poignant one. I have always thought of literature as being a constant, a permanent. Part of the reason why I write is to add substance to memories or feelings that I don’t believe will be around forever. The thought of a writer being so horrified with the place that writing has lead him to that he would be willing to devote his life to burning his work is one which really held resonance with me. What I loved most of all was that fire was presented as the metaphor for hatred. Julian is burnt in the fire and physically scarred – an accurate representation of how hatred has destroyed the person he used to be. And that beautiful moment when Daniel walks into the mansion to find Bea, and she addresses him as Julian. Because what is Daniel if he isn’t the Julian who never needed to write?

This book might not count as a classic piece of literature. I doubt this jumbled set of paragraphs even counts as a review, as I am forever plagued with an inability to write critically about books which I adore. But I am going to post it anyway in my Classic Lit tag, because I think that The Shadow of the Wind deserves to be there.



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