The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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Look, it’s not my thing to mince my words, so I’ll give you my opinion and ultimately, you’ll decide what to make of it anyway : as far as I’m concerned, The Shadow of the Wind is overrated and, to say the truth, a bit of a smokescreen. Despite its obvious qualities, I have to admit that I’m a little baffled of its status given that all the flaws, if found in some random YA book, would be called out without any doubt.

Caricatures as characters, from Daniel the Romantic whose constant whining reminded me of some 18th Century hero (someone saves me from François-René de Chateaubriand, please), to the twisting-moustache villain whose mother, you guessed right, was a crazy bitch (mwahahahaha). As for the women (OMG, the WOMEN), they’re either sexual creatures (often vile and manipulative, because of course *roll eyes*) or solely conceived for the Great Goal of Bearing children (or assuming their care). It’s pretty simple, actually : the good girls are those who get pregnant or are desperate for it, and all women are portrayed through their looks. All of these characters were flat and forgettable in my book.

Blatant sexism pouring through every page, and before you mention it, I KNOW, the society in 1945/1950 wasn’t kind on women. I do know that, yet I don’t believe that the portrayal of sexist behavior had to be so IN YOUR FACE. In the past I’ve read historical novels that let me furious about the way women were treated and categorized into little boxes (mother, virgin, whore, if you’re asking) but in The Shadow of the Wind I never felt that the issue was handled or acknowledged, or barely (they do mention it in other men, but for me they were no better). It was just THERE. All the time, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to care about characters – Fermin and Daniel, for example – who constantly objectify women, when they’re not busy expressing stereotypes like, “women can’t do Maths”, or, “women who let you touch them the first time are whores”, etc, etc. I read the French translation, so I’m not going to write down the quotes, but they are EVERYWHERE. I felt like drowning.

The instalove, anyone? Far from me the intent of spoiling the story to you, so I’ll just say this : there are three couples in this story, and the THREE OF THEM suffer from major instalove (the kind where people see each other once, talk twice, and share iloveyous). What the hell?! Again, if this book was called The Storm and The Thorns, and some generic YA bullshit, it would have annoyed me, because I cannot feel invested in a romance if there’s neither growth nor depth. Why in the world should I feel differently this time? I do not. Honestly? I couldn’t care less.

The resolution of the intrigue did not satisfy me, because I found the way it was revealed rather lazy. Sure, I did not expect it, but after having remained in the dark during 80% of the book, I was a little disappointed by the avalanche of information that was thrown in my face, in a info-dumping fashion. Even with the interesting (highlight to see the spoiler) meta narration, it felt like such a cop-out.

The atmosphere is darkly enticing, captivating, even, and for me the real MC is Barcelona. Indeed I couldn’t look away from the fascinating picture Carlos Ruiz Zafón created, from the vivid slices of life put into black and white letters. I wish the descriptions of Paris would have reached this level of brilliance, but I didn’t really mind. Albeit the difficult times described, reading The Shadow of the Wind made me want to come back there, and I probably will very soon.

The writing, if not free of some cheesy figures of speech – but it could be the translation – is addictive and compelling. From the first page I was hooked, and my interest didn’t falter before reaching the second half (but I already explained why).

► All in all, The Shadow of the Wind was a disappointment for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but in the end, the story didn’t convince me, and even the message – no matter how great it was, or wanted to be – felt a bit superficial because spoiled by the lack of depth of the characters.

*Shrugs*

4 responses to “The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

  1. I agree with this review 100%. I was so let down by this book. The writing and setting were gorgeous, as you said, so I may have been willing to forgive the predictable plot and the lazy information reveal in the form of a random 20 page letter at the end, but I ultimately could not look past the sexism. When writing historical fiction it’s so lazy to say ‘well, people were sexist back then, so it’s okay if my characters are, too!’ Since you’re writing from a modern lens, this sexism needs to be contextualized and condemned by the narrative – otherwise, you’re just feeding into it. And I thought the way the misogyny was framed was particularly harmful, because a lot of the characters – Daniel and Fermin in particular – claimed to love women, so I guess Zafon thought that sufficiently excused the fact that they treated the women in their lives like objects. Ugh. And don’t get me started on the way Clara was resigned to a miserable existence as some sort of perverse narrative comeuppance.

    Rant over. This book drove me crazy, and I’m so happy to see a review that doesn’t rave over it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES TO EVERYTHING YOU SAID. I completely share your point of view about how should sexism be treated when written from a modern lens. I am SO sick of all these historical that use that as an excuse to spread awful ideas and behaviors. And yeah, Daniel and Fermin – in the end, I couldn’t care for them whatsoever because of this. And don’t get me started about Clara, ugh. So unfair. Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fermin was literally the most insufferable character I have ever encountered. Daniel I tried to care about for a while there, but ended up giving up. Nuria was really the only character I cared about in the whole book, I wish the whole thing had been from her perspective. Oh, and Clara I also liked, but too bad she was resigned to the role of the ~evil temptress~ Ugh, this book.

        Haha, I couldn’t resist commenting, I was reading through your review going ‘YES, THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FELT, THANK YOU.’ Even the things you mentioned liking were the only redeeming factors for me, too!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Right?! I really enjoyed Duria as well. Fermin I couldn’t stand and I gave up on Daniel once he grew up. Like… no. Nope. The evolution of Clara’s character was so stupid, ugh.

        Liked by 1 person

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