Barcelona,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 rarebook 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 And 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

10 thoughts on “La sombra del viento

  1. Annalisa Annalisa says:

    I read the opening few pages and instantly knew 3 things:
    1. I was going to love this book.
    2. I needed a whole pad of post-its to mark quotes.
    3. I wanted to read this in Spanish for the rich poetry the language would add.

    A young boy Daniel is taken by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and told to salvage a book which he must take stewardship over. He choses a novel—or maybe it chose him—that touches him, stirs his desire for literature, and forever entangles him with the fate of the book and its author. The strange author died in poverty but now someone is seeking out all remaining copies of his unsuccessful novels to burn. Daniel embarks on a mission to solve the mystery of the author's story being watched by a revengeful cop and the book burner himself. As the story twists and slowly unravels he doesn't know whose account to trust or how it will affect his life.

    Wrapped up in the mystery is a message of death: do we live a full life or wander through it numb? The Shadow of the Wind is an allegory for death in a fictitious novel by the same title. Shadow is a perfect symbol for death evoking images of how death can be metaphorical instead of literal—living shadows of lives, chasing shadows of dreams, being shadows of others, letting memories shadow life. Every character had shadows which could engulf them or they could overcome. In this sense death becomes a fate we chose ourselves. For death is not always the worst thing that can happen (words are not always the worst prison). Every time the word shadow was used I considered its illusion of death. It was with much thought that the word was scattered throughout the book.

    Just as the fictitious novel was an echo of the book and Julian's life, I loved watching Daniel's life parallel Julian's. Both grew up poor without an ideal family life, fell in love with a rich girl who was the adoration of her father and whose brother was a best friend, evoked murderous anger from her father after impregnating her, and when they have a brush with death, extremes of hate and love anchored their fight to survive. As Julian's story unfolds, Daniel unwittingly finds himself in the exact same point of their duel destiny.

    Once Daniel is aware of the correlation, the comparison stops. Is it because Daniel consciously chooses to chance his path or has fate dealt him a better hand? Julian wrote There are no coincidences. We are the puppets of our subconscious desires. But while the message is clear that we chose our own fate, it seems there was no fate but failure for Julian. The sad thing is I believed Julian's love for Penelope as it grew in obsession more than Daniel's love for Beatriz which seemed a happy chance of lust.

    Themes of devils and angels are prevalent as characters save and ruin each others' lives. Clara is a physical angel who is blind while Fumero an emotional devil blinded by hate. While women tended to be described as angel and men devil, most characters held both in different shades. Take Julian the angel child bringing life (love, novels) who turned into the devil Lain Coubert bringing death (destruction, fear). But the characters pick whether to accept the destiny allotted them. Fermin was living death in the shadows of the street who had to get over his demons to find life worth living. The shadows for Nuria, Julian, Fortuny, even Fumero didn't have to give them a reason to quit living. They chose shadows.

    The book reminded me of The 13th Tale thematically, linguistically, and in delivery, although I loved this book so much more. The way the mystery unfolds finding tidbits from different perspectives enhanced the mystery and aided the depth of characterization. When I can see the vicious wife beater, deceived husband, and regretful father all in Antonio Fortuny I get a more well rounded sense of his motives. I enjoyed how the characters played different roles for each other.

    I love Barcelona as the setting. If you've been to the artistically enchanting city, you know it's the perfect backdrop to this eloquently enchanting tale with a gothic feel. The Spanish have a way of making all things metaphorically beautiful. The vivid romantic passages had me smiling and at times laughing out loud. I highly enjoyed the writing and it wasn't until two-thirds of the way into the book that the story finally stole my complete attention. Julian was my initial guess and while the story kept me questioning, it was the best solution and I was happy with the conclusion.

    But no novel is perfect; my issues are these:
    1. The readymade quotes are extreme. Zafon salvages this by calling himself out on the commentary. He sets the comments up in dialogue and then uses another character to mock the snippets.

    2. Perspective, particularly in Nuria's letter, is off. How could she know what Miquel looked at when dying? The chapters of her letters change from direct commentary to Daniel to third-party narrative. Elsewhere in the novel Daniel summarizes conversations in italics but I wondered from whence the interruption of her narrative with Fumero's story came.

    3. I always hope historical fiction will showcase a more accurate moral setting, but it rarely happens. While I believed the sex about Zafon's characters, done in secret and with fathers chasing down the culprits, how could they find out they were pregnant the next day? I was also disappointed that all marriages were displayed as wrong and wives disregarded. Oh well. I guess it added to the Spanish flavor of the book.

    4. American authors tend to impose unrealistic happy endings while Europeans favor poignant sad ones. At one point it seemed bad things happened to Julian for nothing else than this love of tragedies. It seemed Zafon was going to ruin the characters lives to make a point. But he makes his point with Julian and leaves Daniel to gives us a satisfied ending. A story about the living dead cannot be all bliss but we still find redemption as the characters step out of the shadows and live their lives.

    Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.
    I believed, with the innocence of those who can still count their age on their fingers, that if I closed my eyes and spoke to her, she would be able to hear me wherever I was.
    A secret's worth depends on the people form whom it must be kept.
    Women have an infallible instinct for knowing when a man has fallen madly in love with them, especially when the male in question is both a complete dunce and a minor.
    Death was like a nameless and incomprehensible a hellish lottery ticket. But I couldn't absorb the idea that death could actually walk by my side, with a human face and a heart that was poisoned with hatred.
    The eternal stupidity of pursuing those who hurt us the most.
    Paris is the only city in the world where starving to death is still considered an art.
    Arrogant as only idiots can be.
    I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory.
    Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not for the merits of who receives them. the Antichrist...our world will not die as a result of the will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything.
    I realized how easily you can lose all animosity toward someone you've deemed your enemy as soon as that person stops behaving as such.
    People talk too much. Humans aren't descended from monkeys. They come for parrots.
    God, in His infinite wisdom, and perhaps overwhelmed by the avalanche of requests from so many tormented souls, did not answer.
    Silencing their hearts and their souls to the point where...they forgot the words with which to express their real feelings.
    People are evil. Not evil, moronic, which isn't quite the same thing. Evil presupposes a moral decision.
    The words with which a child's heart is poisoned, through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.
    Marriage and family are only what we make of them.
    Sometimes what matters isn't what one gives but what one gives up.
    Destiny is usually just around the corner. But what destiny does not do home visits. You have to go for it.
    Just an innocent boy who thought he had conquered the world in an hour but didn't yet realize that he could lose it again in an instant.
    Keep your dreams. You never know when you might need them.
    Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.
    Waiting is the rust of the soul.
    Sometimes we think people are like lottery tickets, that they're there to make our most absurd dreams come true.
    While you're working you don't have to look life in the eye.
    Most of us have the good or bad fortune of seeing our livs fall apart so slowly we barely notice.
    Time goes faster the more hollow it is.
    I learned to confuse routine with normality.
    The world war, which had polluted the entire globe with a stench of corpses that would never go away.
    The clear, unequivocal lucidity of madmen who have escaped the hypocrisy of having to abide by a reality that makes no sense.
    A story is a letter the author writes to himself to tell himself things he would be unable to discover otherwise.
    The art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.
    [speaking of television:] The novel is dead and buried...there'll be no more need for books, or churches, or anything.

  2. Jamie Jamie says:

    There's probably nothing much I learned in the introspective sense, but this is a novel like a novel ought to be. This is an epic film on paper, gloomy and engaging, smokey, noir with crumbling ruins, young love, disfigurment, lust, torture...the stuff of Dumas, DuMauier and, as of late, The Historian. I woke up at five a.m. and had to sweet talk myself back to sleep: all I wanted to do was read. One Friday, after work, I took sanctuary in The Hotel Biron, those little tables in the dark, pages flickering with candles and drank a glass of wine in solitude, completely enthralled in the world of 1940's Barcelona.
    I walked home from the train at night and found myself saying the characters names beneath my umbrella, hoping no one would hear me talking to myself, but they were, quite simply, too beautiful to ignore: Julian Carax, Daniel Semepere, Beatriz...Tomas, Penelope Aldaya and Nuria Monfort.
    In a movie this would be too many people, but for this novel they were perfectly seamed, each point of view more entralling and taxing than the one before.
    Most refreshing, clearly the author wasn't poisoned with the desire to simply keep the reader in the dark: instead this story, with attention, was something you could figure out--because that's the way life is. The mystery itself isn't supposed to shock you intensely into thinking a book is good, that's a dirty trick. Instead, the STORY carried you. You cared about the story and it was a tragity and mystery all the same, simply because you were invested in these people and what became of them. To know them so intimately from childhood to adulthood and old age, to know them through various degrees of point of view seperation--to hear there is no Penelope, and then to know she is a sister, a love, but to some non-existant...well, it's gothic literature at it's very best.
    With a book like this I am almost, ALMOST tempted to give up my most pedantic and pretentious thoughts, paralells and character development--this story is a story and it's just that good. It is the Phantom of the Opera, those dark tunnels and pressure points, a lake with candles or drawing rooms with no fire in the grate and crazy wives being stored in attics over head. This is, quite literally a timeless tale, and yes, reading it will make you smarter, more interested, more cultured (the back of the book includes a walking tour of Barcelona. I missed Barcelona but I am quite determined to go now, with my copy of A Shadow of the Wind in hand, just like wanting desperately to visit Eastern Europe after I finished The Historian and see it all), but more importantly real life simply fades to black as you become completely, totally and fantastically helpless and wrapped up in the lives of others.
    While there are fun hybrids--Crash Topics in Calamity Physics, for one, which combine a courses, authors, quotes and plot lines from a thousand famous novels, this book really makes that unnecessary. This is a classic without any help, no cheat cheats necessary. Read it. Read it. Read it.

    **I write on books and other stuff at

  3. Daniel Teo Daniel Teo says:

    After reading The Shadow of the Wind, I was left with somewhat mixed feelings. On the one hand, this is such a beautifully written book, and is in essence an ode to literature. On the other hand, there are some serious flaws which distracts from the whole experience.

    The best thing about the book, in my opinion, is Zafon's skill in artistic writing. It reminds me of why I love to read in the first place, and makes me wish I could write as beautiful as this. The book contains lots of memorable quotes as well, definitely a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

    So after about 50 pages in, I was ready to love this book as I seldom loved another book before. But as the story progressed, that resolution started to diminish slowly but surely. Ironically, one the more obvious flaws is Zafon's overuse of stylistic writing. It seems like everyone acts or talks in a very elaborate manner, even in the simplest of situations, and this can really become tiresome after a while.

    The plot also isn't as ingenious as the hype would make you believe. Zafon does a good job creating a sense of mystery early on, and there are obvious parallels between the main character Daniel Sempere, and Julian Carax, the writer whose past he is trying to uncover. But ultimately, the stories of Daniel and Julian are seperate ones, and they just happen to interconnect with one another more by chance than by design.

    By far the most troublesome flaw is the way the mysteries are resolved. All too often, answers are given by having some side character or another tell his or her story for pages. Nowhere is this more evident than at the end of the book, where literally every single detail is revealed in the form of a (very) long letter, even details which the writer of the letter never could have known, since she wasn't even involved in those events. It's as if Zafon did not have a clue or the motivation to write a logical conclusion, and decided to just dump all the information in one place.

    With a bit more attention to actual plot and character development, this could have been one of my favourite books. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed reading the Shadow of the Wind. It's just a shame that it falls some way short of its potential.

  4. Tanja (Tanychy) St. Delphi/James Tanja (Tanychy) St. Delphi/James says:

    The fact is that I’ll never be able to write a real review for this book. Here is why :

    1. I’m not good enough.
    I’m not now and I’ll never be. It doesn’t matter how many books you have read or how smart you are, you’ll never be good enough for that. You won’t be able to find exact words and it’s not just you. Only person who can is the author himself, but I think he already said everything he wanted.
    Don’t believe me?
    - “Books are mirrors - you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
    - “The moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you've already stopped loving that person forever.”
    - “A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”
    - “There are few reasons for telling the truth, but for lying the number is infinite.”
    - “In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”
    Do you now?

    2. It’s impossible.
    I’ll try to describe it. It’s not the same feeling but the result is. You know that moment, or better said that feeling, when you see someone who means a lot to you and you have that beautiful feeling inside of you. Now try to describe it. You can’t? I know.

    3. And last but not least....
    Please allow me to quote the author:
    “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.”
    And this is mine.

  5. jessica jessica says:

    riveting. mysterious. haunting. imaginative. charming. sentimental.

    the list of adjectives is endless. and whilst this book is all of these, the one thing that i will forever remember about this book is how it makes me appreciate the art of storytelling. i didnt feel like i was reading a novel; i felt as if someone very dear was sitting next to me and telling me their favourite tale. i was enamoured with the nuances of the language and swept up with all the action. it was an absolute pleasure to experience such a well-told story. truly a masterpiece in every way possible.

    ↠ 5 stars

  6. Mark Lawrence Mark Lawrence says:

    This is a book about books, a story about stories. It starts and ends in a library of sorts, themes and plots are echoed across decades, tied together by actors who find their roles changing, and by a pen that links two cycles of the story and has its own tale that started before and goes on beyond.

    the art of reading is slowly dying, it's an intimate ritual, a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”

    Zafón is a master of prose, he is eminently quotable even in translation. The story is set in Barcelona and stretches from the turn of the 19th century to the sixties, though focusing most heavily in post civil war Spain recovering in the 40s and 50s. It's a bitter sweet story, as much about the slow acceptance of loss as about fighting against it or finding happiness.

    Most of us have the good or bad fortune of seeing our lives fall apart so slowly we barely notice it.

    The setting is vividly brought to life. Many of the characters live in poverty or close to it, and the ventures into Paris bring to mind Orwell's descriptions. Barcelona is the star of the piece though.

    one of the many places in Barcelona where the nineteenth century had not yet been served its eviction notice

    Shadow of the Wind is a love story, or two love stories, or several love stories to be honest. We focus on Daniel, a young man growing up, and becoming obsessed with the story of another man, a writer whose young life (decades earlier) is unfolded for us through Daniel's investigations. Both of them finding difficult and potentially tragic love.

    Her voice was pure crystal, transparent and so fragile I feared that her words would break if I interrupted them.

    The Shadow of the Wind has a lot to say about books and reading, rather less to say about the business of writing though.

    Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.

    Novels, as everyone knew, were for women and for people with nothing better to do.

    It's a complex interwoven plot, not without threat and violence, with a series of reveals that undermine what you think you know.

    A fascinating and lovely read, and a nice break from the fantasy books that I have read almost exclusively over the last 5 years.

    Give it a try!

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  7. Petrik Petrik says:

    4.5/5 stars

    An astonishingly engaging story within a story type of novel; the passion for books and reading introduced in the first chapter was just an appetizer before all the interconnecting twists and turns.

    I’ve been having a lot of good lucks lately in reading books outside of epic fantasy—my favorite sub-genre. The Shadow of the Wind is a novel that I’ve heard so many positive things about for several years; it is one of those books that’s often recommended by readers, regardless of their main preferences sub-genre of reading. And now that I’ve read it, I can understand why it received all the critical acclaims. Sheer brilliance in storytelling and writing aside, The Shadow of the Wind is a book about books, a story about a story, and it would be difficult for readers—who obviously love books—of all kind of genre to resist the charm in the narrative. I’m going backward here because The Shadow of the Wind was published first, but if you’ve read and loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, I think you’re going to love this novel as well. These two books have many similarities in themes and their approaches to the passion for books and its mystery + coming-of-age centered plotlines.

    “In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”

    The Shadow of the Wind is the first book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The story takes place in Barcelona, 1945, and here’s the short premise of the novel. On his eleventh birthday, Daniel Sempere wakes up and finds out that he cannot remember the face of his mother anymore. To cheer him up, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library that holds the books forgotten by the world, just sitting there waiting for the right reader to choose a book that will hold a special meaning to them. Daniel selects a book titled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, and he falls in love with it immensely, then he seeks other books written by Julian only to find out that someone has been destroying every book written by the author. He may just be holding the last copy of the author’s work, and he’s trying to solve the mystery behind this bizarre incident.

    “Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

    As I mentioned, The Shadow of the Wind is a story within a story. It tells a coming-of-age story of Daniel Sempere as he tries to unravel the mystery behind Julian Carax and the disappearances of his novels. Despite this novel has been published for more than a decade—almost two decades in its original language—now, I somehow was able to approach this book knowing close to nothing; I plan to keep it that way for future readers who stumbles upon this review. Let me, however, say that I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I grew to care about the characters in this novel, especially for Daniel and Fermin—Fermin is hands down my favorite character of the book. Daniel’s story and the secrets he unravels continuously gripped me, Fermin’s personality plus his dialogues are so intoxicating, and most of all the friendship these two nurtured is incredibly heartwarming.

    “One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep.”

    I haven’t been to Barcelona, what I know of it, I see, learn, and heard from other people and other media. However, there’s a super atmospheric quality that’s so immersive to Zafón’s writing; when I was reading the book, it feels like I was truly there. I’m in a similar situation with my friends, in that I haven’t read the book in its original language, and because of this, I can’t gauge the accuracy of the translations. But as far as reading the book in English goes, the translation done by Lucia Graves flows absolutely well. There were a few flashback sections where I found the book to be slightly uneven in its pacing, but for the majority of the novel, Zafón’s prose and Graves’ translations were extraordinarily compelling and accessible. I’m serious; I lost count on how many passages I highlighted because they were so well-written and relatable to me.

    “Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”

    Picture: The Shadow of the Wind by Vincent Chong

    There’s simply no scarcity of insightful and wise remarks within this novel that brims with resonating themes of growing up, love, found family, friendship, and books. In equal measure, it’s also filled with revenge, loss, and tragedy. The Shadow of the Wind is an amazing piece of literature that begins and concluded its story in a richly satisfying way. Do note that although this is the first book of a quartet, the novel worked wonderfully well as a standalone; I’m actually surprised that there are three more books in the series. If any one of the sequels is as good as this one, then I know I’m in for more unforgettable stories to read.

    “I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.”

    You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

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  8. Jon Cox Jon Cox says:

    I can't believe someone actually published this book. Even worse, in my opinion is the fact that this book is on the New York Times Bestseller List. How is this possible? It must only mean that there are a lot of people out there that think very differently from me. Don't you be one of them. Seriously. Don't be fooled by this book. It is insipid, lame, and poorly written.

    First. The prose is so overblown that the author uses three adjectives for every single noun. Count them. He evidently was told that to be a writer you have to make everything as descriptive as possible, and then he decided that meant that each noun had to be modified three, always three, and only three times. Argh.

    Second. The author must have looked up every word he could in a thesaurus and chosen the one that was most obscure or had the most syllables. Who is he trying to impress? Maybe it was the translator's fault? Maybe not. Either way, this style is used even when describing what the ten year old character sees and says. Which brings me to my next point.

    Third. Every character in this book speaks with exactly the same voice. All you hear is the authors voice, not any different characterizations. And that voice demonstrates the problems I described in my first and second points. But that's not all. There is an even worse, and definitely fatal, problem with this book.

    Fourth. This story was written as a mystery. Nine years lurch by as the character slowly tries to unravel the details of the main conflict. I actually don't have a problem with this in theory. Unfortunately, after three quarters of the book, and numerous new characters, the mystery is no clearer. So what does the author do about it? He has one of the characters write a 30 page (or so) letter to the main character telling him what really happened. Ta-da. The mystery is solved. The author is such a terrible writer that he can't even solve his own mystery. He has to use a cheap cop-out to clear everything up.

    I can't respect that. Sorry. I can't believe so many other people have.

    Boycott the book. Really.

  9. Maxwell Maxwell says:

    Fourth reading: May 7-17, 2017
    Of course I love this book soooo much. It's my all-time favorite. This is the 4th year in a row I've read it, and it never gets old. If you haven't already read this at my suggestion, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

    Third reading: May 14-21, 2016

    Second reading: May 23-25, 2015-
    Okay, I can confidently say, upon re-reading this, that it is one of my all-time favorite books. It was just as surprising and enchanting and delightful as the first time I read it, if not more so. The writing is impeccable. The weaving together of so many storylines and characters is remarkable. I can't gush enough about this book, so I will just say EVERYONE GO READ THIS NOW PLEASE. You won't regret it.

    First read: May 12-17, 2014-
    Everything about this novel was captivating. The story follows Daniel, a young boy, whose father is a bookseller. He is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and allowed to pick out one book that he is expected to 'save' or, in a sense, remember throughout his life. He picks a novel by Julian Carax titled The Shadow of the Wind, and is immediately sucked into the story. From there, the novel follows Daniel as he begins to learn more about the illusive author, Julian Carax, and about the web of lies and intrigue that he gets trapped in.

    The writing is absolutely gorgeous. The book is full of incredible quotes, wonderful, beautifully strung out sentences. I never underline in books. This book, however, required a pencil at the ready at all times, because I couldn't pass up underlining some amazing parts.

    Though the plot isn't super strong, there is a mysterious and magical quality to the book that propels you through it, page after page. The characters feel so real, and thus their lives seem to be playing out for you in such a real way that you are concerned and invested, wanting to know what happens next.

    I loved the setting of Barcelona. This is also a book translated from Spanish, which is even more impressive on the part of the translator. I think the translation was incredible.

    Overall, this is a book that I will return to again in my life, I am sure. It is captivating and a new favorite. 5/5.

  10. Simon Simon says:

    It's been a couple years since I read this book so I shouldn't and won't go into details, but the effect has lingered all this time. There's no other book I'm quicker to recommend than this one. It's not that it's particularly important in a lot of the ways important books are, it's just that it works as pure reading pleasure (and sometimes, isn't that enough?); so I find reviews from people desperate to discover structural flaws and stylistic cliches to be totally missing the point. Buy it new, breathe in the perfume of those pages, tell your friends and family you're going to be busy for a few days and disappear into it.