About the Author
Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels, including the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, and The Angel’s Game. His work has been published in more than forty different languages, and honoured with numerous international awards. He divides his time between Barcelona, Spain, and Los Angeles, California.
“I am in the business of storytelling. I always have been, always will be. It is what I’ve been doing since I was a kid. Telling stories, making up tales, bringing life to characters, devising plots, visualizing scenes and staging sequences of events, images, words and sounds that tell a story. All in exchange for a penny, a smile or a tear, and a little of your time and attention.”
The Shadow of the Wind
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a multi-layered tale about a ten-year-old boy named Daniel Sempere, who picks up a copy of a book by an author who seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth…THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a story within a story within a story. Still, the plots remain intact as Zafon writes about Daniel’s search for the answers to Julian’s mystery, the many characters who fill these pages, and the story of Daniel Sempere, a boy who loves books. This reviewer feels it has something for everybody; and although it seems to go on a bit too long at times, overall it is a wonderfully satisfying novel, making it a four-star winner. [Read full review]
“I still remember the day my father took me to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Mònica in a wreath of liquid copper.”
Here’s what Donna, one of our reading group members, had to say about the book:
“‘The Shadow Of The Wind’ was just a fun read and I found myself not wanting to put it down. My initial expectation was it was going to be a post-war story about survival and moving on after past events but it quickly became a mystery to be solved. Daniel, as a small boy, is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Book where he is allowed to choose one book to safe keep. This choice, a book written by Curaz, changes in life in that someone wants to have every book written by the author destroyed. Daniel is approached by a stranger who identifies himself as a character in the book who, in a threatening way, requests Daniel’s copy. This sets in motion Daniel’s quest to learn as much as he can about Curaz and solve the mystery of what happened to him.
The novel is not without flaws. The characters are intertwined a little to coincidentally. The fact that Daniel met a homeless man, Fermin, who later becomes his friend and who also has ties to Fumero, who happens to be a childhood friend of Curax was just too convenient. It was also mentioned during our meeting that Curaz’s books had such a profound impact on those who read them but it was unclear as to why they never become popular.
I do recommend “The Shadow Of The Wind” as it was a highly enjoyable read.”
The Gothic Quarter is a fabulous setting for this book and the idea of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books was intriguing. I was thrilled to learn of an entire underworld of “Shadow of the Wind” followers that love Zafon’s beautiful writing style and stories (it reminded me of the Brown Coaters, loyal Firefly followers). Among Zafron’s followers, is Annie , who has beautifully highlighted this book; it only makes sense that I share it with you here. Annie provides fabulous book club party ideas that include images and recipes for delicious food and drink inspired by the book. Below are a few I pulled together.
This beautiful Soundtrack was produced, composed, arranged and performed
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – Copyright © by Dragonworks, S.L (2007)
Daniel Sempere- The protagonist of the novel, Daniel is a young boy whose father owns a bookstore and whose mother died when he was ten. He discovers a book called The Shadow of the Wind in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and is instantly intrigued. He sets out to investigate the mystery behind the author and his burnt books.
Julian Carax– He is the author of The Shadow of the Wind, and Daniel attempts to solve the mystery behind what happened to him. He fell in love with his best friend’s sister Penelope at first sight, but due to certain circumstances could not be with her. He wrote a number of novels, which did not sell that well and then disappeared.
Fermin Romero de Torres– Initially introduced as a homeless man, Fermin becomes Daniel’s best friend and mentor. It is later revealed that Fermin was a spy for the Generaltit party during the Spanish Civil War, and when they lost he was tortured by Inspector Fumero. Daniel gives him a job at his father’s bookstore and this allows him to rebuild his life.
Fransisco Javier Fumero– He is the antagonist of the novel, and is a corrupt police officer. He knew Julian in childhood and was infatuated with Penelope. In the novel, Miquel remarks on how Fumero was not mentally stable even as a child.
Nuria Monfort- An intelligent woman who worked for a publishing company that published Julian’s novels. She had an affair with Julian and fell in love with him. She also became very good friends with Miquel Moliner and ended up marrying him.
Beatriz Aguilar– She is Daniel’s best friend’s sister, who is engaged to a soldier. She is still in school and her brother and father are extremely protective of her. She soon becomes Daniel’s love interest.
Miquel Moliner– He is Julian’s best friend and is a very intelligent individual. He spends the money his father made selling weapons during the war on good causes (ie. building schools and hospitals). He is extremely loyal to Julian and even gives his life for him. He also falls in love with Nuria and even though it is unrequited, they still end up marrying.
Penelope Aldaya- She is Julian’s love interest, who fell in love with Julian at first sight. She is Julian’s friend’s sister and has a very strict father. She becomes pregnant with Julian’s child and as a result her father locks her up in her room. Most people don’t even know that she existed because she disappeared in 1919. It is later revealed that she died while giving birth a long with her child.
“As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections.” (Zafon, 7)
Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s, The Shadow of the Wind is structured much like the novel that Daniel is reading with the same name written by Julian Carax. The entire story is not only told from Daniel’s point if view, but repeatedly switches into various narratives. Each individual has there own story about what happened to Julian and each story adds a new layer to who Julian was. The use if this structure creates an element of mystery, because the story slowly unfolds as each individual’s story begins to connect with the other. Just like the Russian dolls, there are numerous stories within this novel, that connect at the end to finally allow Daniel to understand Julian Carax and discover what really happened to him.
Burnt Face: Julian’s burnt face is a symbol for the change that occurs in Julian. It symbolizes his transformation from Julian, the author to Lain, the villain from his novel. He wrote books for Penelope, the women who he loved, and believed that she had read them. Penelope was the only reason why he wrote the books. When he realizes that Penelope died years ago along with his unborn child and never had the chance to read any of his books, he decides to burn all of his books. He sets a building full of his books on fire and attempts to kill himself while doing so, but is unable to and instead ends up badly burnt. The burnt face becomes the face of Lain Coubert, the villain of Julian Carax’s novels as he attempts to find all of his novels and burn them.
Shadows: “Some things can only be seen in the shadows”(4); “Soon afterward, like figures made of steam, father and son disappear into the crowd of the Ramblas, their steps lost forever in the shadow of the wind.”(487)
Shadows, which are continuously brought up in the novel, are a symbol of the unknown and create a sense of mystery. An example would be when Daniel’s father tells him that The Cemetery of Forgotten Books can only be seen in the shadows. Very few individuals actually know about The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which makes it highly secretive and mysterious. Other characters and places are also described using the term shadow and it creates an element of mystery. A prime example would be Julian, because many times in the novel he appears to be hidden in the shadows.
Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen (“Victor Hugo” pen): The Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen is a symbol for the connection between Daniel and Julian. It helps draw another parallel between the two characters lives. Both of these individuals possessed this pen at some point in the novel and it was given to them by someone who cared for them. For Daniel his father bought it for him on his sixteenth birthday because he wanted to become a writer as a child. In Julian’s case, Nuria Monfort bought the pen for Julian as a gift, but decided not to give it to him. She sold it to the store where Daniel’s father ended up buying it from. At the end of the novel the pen is given to Julian by Daniel, who tells him to write again and he does.
Reading Group Activity
Source: Bookshop Santa Cruz
Predictions and Outcomes
This activity takes a little planning before you begin reading. We found it to be a lot of fun and well worth the effort.
We never approach a book with a totally blank mind. The cover art, the description on the back, things we’ve heard word of mouth, and publisher marketing all influence our impression of the book before we even read the first sentence. This activity asks book group members to explore their perceptions of the book before reading it, at some set point in the middle, and after they’ve completed it.
1). After purchasing the book but before starting it, each person should take a few minutes to make some predictions. What will the book be about? Who will the main characters be? Where will the book take place? What kind of conflict or plot will be involved? Why did the author write this book? Are you going to like it? Are you going to learn from it? What do you already know about the ending? What other predictions can you make?
2). At some point in the middle, revisit these questions and your answers to them. How have your predictions played out? Ask yourself similar questions about the second half of the book. What are the important relationships? What are the points of contention? How do you see this book ending? Will you be satisfied with your experience?
3). After finishing the book, take a few minutes to write and reflect on these predictions. In what ways were you surprised by the book? In what ways were your predictions confirmed?
In your book group, discuss these three stages of engagement. See how the predictions compared to each other and what aspects of the book different people focused on. Is there anything the group would change about the marketing of the book? The description on the back? What would you tell someone who has yet to read it?
1. What genre would you use to describe this book?
2. Daniel says of The Shadow of the Wind, “As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within.” Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind unfolds much the same way, with many characters contributing fragments of their own stories in the first person point of view. What does Zafón illustrate with this method of storytelling? What do the individual miniautobiographies contribute to the tale?
3. What is Ruiz Zafón trying to say about books?
4. What was unique about the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter, Barcelona) setting of The Shadow of the Wind? In what ways did Zafon’s setting enhance the story?
5. Discuss the threatening devil-like characters in the novel – Lain Coubert, Fumero, Zacarias (the dream angel), etc.
6. Discuss the angelic depiction of female characters in the novel – Clara, Bea, Daniel’s mother.
7. What roles does Fermín play in the story?
8. What roles do Daniel’s parents play in this story?
9. The Aldaya Mansion, the allegedly cursed Angel of the Mist, seems to be a character in its own right. It has a life of its own, creaking, moaning, and breathing fire in its belly. How did this Mansion influence the book and its characters?
10. “What role does the Sugus candy play in the novel? Why are Fermin and Daniel never without them?
11. Julian once wrote that coincidences are the scars of fate. There are no coincidences, Daniel. We are the puppets of our unconscious.” What does that statement mean? What was Nuria referring to?
12. Why does the author set the story in the midst of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath?
13. Nuria Monfort’s dying words, meant for Julián, are, “There are worse prisons than words.” What does she mean by this? What is she referring to?
14. What is the relationship between Daniel and Julián Carax?
15. Julián Carax’s and Daniel’s lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?Page 3 of 4
16. ‘Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.’ (Julián Carax). Do you agree with Carax’s statement to Jorge Aldaya? Why/why not? In what ways was this your experience while reading The Shadow of the Wind?
17. What do you think do the Montblanc Meinsterstuck fountain pen or the “Victor Hugo” pen, as Daniel fondly calls it, symbolizes?
18. Julian never finds out why his relationship with Penelope was so taboo. To the end, everyone wanted to protect him from the real facts. If you were Julian, would you want to know?
19. Daniel says, “Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.” What book was that for you? Are there any forgotten books you would like to rescue from obscurity?
20. What does the title of the book refer to? What is “The Shadow of the Wind?”