29 October, 2007

'The Shadow of the Wind' - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I came to this book via a promising serendipity. It was on my list of books to read, following a favourable review and the fact that it was set in Barcelona. Quite by chance I then also noted its Italian title after its cover caught my eye in a bookstore in Mantova, without realising it was the same book. Such coincidence boded well...

Unfortunately, the book didn't match its promise at all. I spent the majority of its 500+ pages staring through the holes in the plot, dangling annoyingly by the tiniest of hooks, which kept me attached to the ending, but at the same time unsure as to what it was the reader was meant to be waiting to find out.

To be fair to the author, I think the book suffered somewhat in translation. There were some very clumsy metaphors, as well as sentences that in context simply didn't make sense. I don't know, however, if it was the author or translator who was responsible for some very cliched chapter climaxes, that often seemed to be for the sake of pretty words only, rather than as a useful contribution to the plot.

Worst of all though, there is one line amongst the overly-long prose that in fact renders the premise of the book as contradictory. In the first chapter the protagonist selects a book at random from the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books', a book which we are later told was put 'where it could never be found'. So how did he find it? And if the only reason was so he could unravel this repetitive mystery, then I think the story was elongated purely to justify its existence, rather than because such complexities were necessary.

By all reports this book was a very strong seller (it does have International Bestseller splashed across its cover). To be honest, that should have been a warning - it does seem to be that what sells in massive numbers is being bought for enjoyment, rather than the possibility for analysis and hence avoids layering and subtley. And the bigger the publisher, the worse the editing. A review of the most recent Booker Prize winner noted it was good for a complex book to have such an impetus towards sales - otherwise something that invited reader involvement would languish.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.