Wouldn’t you love to know what giants in the publishing world are reading for pleasure? The World’s Best Book Club was kick-started by one of these executives, and he highly recommended this month’s selection: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
My copy of the book is red, looks like a box of chocolates, and reminds me of Forest Gump: you never know what you are going to get when you turn the page. I didn’t realize how terribly weary I am of formulaic best-sellers until I read this book.
The book is set in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War. Daniel Sempere’s book-selling father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he selects the last remaining copy of The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel loves the book and becomes obsessed with the author.
His obsession leads to an engrossing adventure with Fermin Romero de Torres, who was a homeless beggar when the duo first meet. Fermin is hired by Daniel’s father to work in the book shop, and he becomes Daniel’s mentor.
The story unearths rivalries which date back to school days at a Jesuit academy. Miquel Moliner and Jorge Aldaya were scions of wealthy families. Julián Carax, Francisco Javier Fumero, and Fernando Ramos were scholarship students. Miquel becomes Julián’s benefactor. Fernando becomes a priest. Javier, who was a bully in school, becomes an evil, abusive, corrupt police inspector; he reminds me very much of the judge.
Nuria Monfort, who worked for Julián’s publisher, was one of Javier’s targets. In a letter to Daniel written in anticipation of her murder, she unravels the mysteries. Fair warning: you won’t be able to put the book down once you start reading the “Nuria Monfort: Remembrance of the Lost” chapter.
My bones chilled when I read about the sexual harassment she experienced at the publishing house because I’ve had the exact same experience at two corporation and two law firms. Yet, it pales to how artfully Mr. Zafón captured the experience of the prized prey of a powerful stalker:
Time has taught me not to lose hope, yet not to trust too much in hope either. Hope is cruel, and has no conscience. For a long time, Fumero has been watching me. He knows I’ll fall, sooner or later. He’s not in a hurry. He lives to avenge himself. On everyone and on himself. Without vengeance, without anger, he would melt away. . .He knows that after almost fifteen years, I have no more strength or resources. He has watched me die for years, and he’s only waiting for the moment when he will deal me the last blow. I have never doubted that I will die by his hand. . .the moment is drawing near.
Sadly, she was correct.