Even before I confessed my desire to write, books have been a staple beneath my Christmas tree. It took until this past November for me to open one of the books I received last year. The Shadow of the Wind was worth the wait, a gift that continues to give.
As mysteries go, I wasn’t sold. Graduate of Grimes and Grafton, the plot and the villain seemed achingly obvious and almost, almost… dull.
Ah, but it was Zafon’s gift of description that pulled me in, the pulse of his prose seamless as a rolling tide.
The novel by Carols Ruiz Zafon is penned prettily, and this line immediately brought to mind a certain individual with whom, well, never mind all that. Suffice it to say, this line fits the individual to a T.
Arrogant as only idiots can be.
Some critics have found Zafon’s style too flowery, and I can understand why. At times, I too hoped he would tighten the page and just get on with it, yet I found myself lost in the rhythm of his words whether he described a room, a reaction, or a character. Zafon wraps up the sum of the housekeeper’s experience with one line,
Bernarda, whose literary appetite was more than satisfied with the church newsletter, looked at him out of the corner of her eye.
And describes her origins just as easily,
Bernarda affected a ceremonial tone that could not conceal a Caceres accent thick enough to spread on toast.
What better way to say show a character who is old, tired, and lacking in enthusiasm?
Barcelo signalled to a waiter of such remarkable decrepitude that he looked as if he should be declared a national landmark.
And this line, in a later chapter, when the hero moves through a poor quarter,
Several drawn and frightened faces peeped around half-open doors–boardinghouse faces fed on watery soup.
In reference to the unrequited love of a young woman,
In my schoolboy reveries, we were always two fugitives riding on the spine of a good book, eager to escape into worlds of fiction and secondhand dreams.
Later, a concise line of dialogue to match,
“If only everything hurt as little as a blow to the face…”
This line, describing a book that the narrator reads aloud, tempts me to steal the description for myself, and attribute it to the book in my hand:
…soon I forgot myself and was submerged once more in the narrative, discovering cadences and turns of phrase that flowed like musical motifs, riddles made of timbre and pauses I had not noticed on my first reading.
And last, though certainly never the least, this line, a description of the novel which could well be applied to this work,
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. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later–no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget–we will return.
With this book Stephen King described as, ‘One gorgeous read,’ Zafon has challenged me to leave a deeper mark.