Don’t let the headline fool you. Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s bestseller The Shadow of the Wind is worth every word.
Several weeks ago, I posted a blurb about the acclaimed novella, The Thief, by Fuminori Nakamura. Short book, short words, short sentences. It was masterful. Far away from the short powerful linguistic punches of Nakamura comes the exquisitely, endlessly detailed prose of Zafón. From the here and now of someone like Nakamura to the then and now and for all eternity of Zafón, a reader might consider a book fast between authors or suffer the shock of suddenly changing worlds.
Shadow isn’t necessarily a book for readers interested in romance, but for readers who find books a romantic undertaking. We walk through a romantic city Barcelona), watch our main character grow up, discover beauty, solve a mystery, fall in love and survive all sorts of danger.
The truth is that I was more engrossed in Zafón’s style, especially compared to Nakamura’s. I’m much more inclined to the latter, unless I’m under the influence of Demerol. My monkey-mind will not allow me to move that slowly and that specifically directed. Perhaps we can love or forgive — whatever the case may be — a character the writer does not. I suspect how much we, as readers, want to participate in the creation of the story may determine the kind of writer we favor. When you read Shadow, Zafón will take complete control. You will see what he wishes you to see. Isn’t that true of all writers? Yes, to a greater or lesser extent. Here you will see through the author’s eyes and you will draw his conclusions, accept his interpretation of events and his assessment of characters. This is his story, his novel, his invention, all beautifully, masterfully rendered. Sometimes, wit h some writers — and this is the case, I believe, with The Thief — the reader must help create all this with the clues he or she has been given. The central character needs the reader to help define him. We must color the walls in a room, put people on the street. Personally, I’d rather co-create. I don’t need and rarely want a detailed description of a doorknob unless it’s distinction is vital to the story. I want to be taunted and teased to follow the plot, not led by the nose.
This is not to demean this kind of storyteller. If you want to be taken, then give in completely to an extraordinarily, long, highly detailed, mood-inducing well-written epic novel. Read Shadow. You won’t be disappointed.