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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlo Ruiz Zafón The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

“I still remember the day my father took me to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Mònica in a wreath of liquid copper.”

On that fateful morning, Daniel’s devoted father, proprietor of Sempere & Son booksellers, feels the time has come for Daniel to know of the secret wondrous library maintained by the second-hand booksellers’ guild. Books are hidden away and protected in this mysterious place until their rediscovery. Young Daniel is drawn to a particular book. ” The gold letter of its title gleamed in the light bleeding from the dome above. I drew near and caressed them with the tips of my fingers reading to myself The Shadow of the Wind Julian Carax.”

Daniel chooses this book, or does this book choose Daniel?

Read more . . .

From the Publisher

Barcelona, 1945—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 rare-book 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.

As with all astounding novels, The Shadow of the Wind sends the mind groping for comparisons —The Crimson Petal and the White? The novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte? Of Victor Hugo? Love in the Time of Cholera?—but in the end, as with all astounding novels, no comparison can suffice. As one leading Spanish reviewer wrote, “The originality of Ruiz Zafón’s voice is bombproof and displays a diabolical talent. The Shadow of the Wind announces a phenomenon in Spanish literature.” An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller’s art.


Book Club Ideas

The Shadow of the Wind is brimming with memorable characters, but the colorful, intelligent, somewhat off-kilter Fermin Romero de Torres (Daniel’s partner in crime) stole my heart! Fermin provided plenty of decoration inspiration for my book club party plans.

Fermin feels disgust for the cinema and tells Daniel that the cinema is used as “a way of feeding the mindless and making them even more stupid … an invention for entertaining the uneducated masses.” However, upon discovery of cinema stars Carole Lombard and Veronica Lake, Fermin undergoes a most radical cinematic conversion!

Veronica Lake

I set up a Fermin table which includes the gifts Daniel brought Fermin during his recovery: peach juice, flowers and a bottle of cologne. And … I added pinup posters of Carole and Veronica to help speed up Fermin’s recovery!

Get Well Fermin


Daniel and his father were introduced to the sounds of Cuba by Fermin. Daniel narrates, “The sound of the radio orchestrated our serene monotony, treating us to a selection of hit songs by the celebrated crooner Antonio Machín, quite fashionable at the time. Caribbean rhythms tended to get on my father’s nerves, but he tolerated the tropical soundscape because the tunes reminded Fermin of his beloved Cuba.”

Antonio Machín Siempre Machín – 30 Grandes Éxitos

Additionally, the soundtrack for The Shadow of the Wind, composed by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is available to download free for personal use in mp3 format. The soundtrack is soooo good!

The Shadow of the Wind Music Download

Book Club Menu

Bea and Daniel sought refuge from the rain in a small café next to Poliorama Theater.

“Withdrawing to a table by the window, we asked for some serrano ham sandwiches and a couple of white coffees, to warm up.”

Unfortunately for Bea and Daniel, the cafe was out of serrano ham sandwiches so Daniel ordered spicy potatoes and some bread. But your guests need not be deprived, so prepare those serrano ham sandwiches. The serrano ham is sliced paper thin and served on a split Spanish rustic loaf, with spicy potatoes and white coffee (café con leche or coffee with milk).

Serrano Ham Sandwiches with Cafe con Leche

Serrano Ham Sandwiches with Café con Leche

Daniel, Rociito, and Fermin inspired my dessert selections.

Poor Daniel. He “spawned the most ill-fated idea that ever occurred” to him when he planned his own sixteenth birthday party. The evening ended badly, and the finest cake his father could find at the corner bakery went untouched. I picked up this fine cake at a local bakery and placed sixteen candles on top. Happy Birthday Daniel! We do plan to eat this cake.

I also included Rociito’s hot chocolate and sweet buns, because that “was something that always made her forget the sorrows of life.” Works for me!

And in honor of Fermin’s sweet tooth (and my own — wish I had Fermin’s metabolism), I included chocolates, pralines, and lemon Sugus (actually lemon flavored Starburst candies since lemon Sugus no longer seem to be available.) “Go on. Have a lemon Sugus candy — it cures everything … you never know when a Sugus candy might get you out of a pickle.” (Fermin to Daniel)

In addition, to peach juice and hot chocolate, there are wonderful selections of Spanish wine …

Spanish Wines

… even one called Penelope.

Book Club Resources

Ratings at Time of Post

Good Reads: 4.23 stars ( 276,601 ratings)
Amazon: 4.50 stars (1956 ratings)
LibraryThing: 4.1 stars (6,746 ratings)
My Rating: 5 stars FANTASTIC!!! Read this book and discover the gifted Carlos Ruiz Zafón and the Barri Gotic of Barcelona! Be prepared to be creeped out.


  • “Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up ‘The Shadow of the Wind.” –The Washington Post
  • “This is a superbly entertaining book, yet highly sophisticated. Zafón is a master at spinning this complex yarn using Barcelona as a setting for night time pursuits and dark melodrama.” – Man of La Book Book Reviews
  • ‘Zafón makes sure there’s a robust serving of amor, and enough magic, murder and madness to keep even the most reluctant reader engrossed. Diabolically good.’ – Elle Magazine
  • “Wonderous… masterful… The Shadow of the Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero.” – Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)
  • “One gorgeous read.” – Stephen King

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Discussion guide may contain spoilers to the book.

1. Julián Carax’s and Daniel’s lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?
2. Nuria Monfort tells Daniel, “Julián once wrote that coincidences are the scars of fate. There are no coincidences, Daniel. We are the puppets of our unconscious.” What does that mean? What does she refer to in her own experience and in Julián’s life?
3. Nuria Monfort’s dying words, meant for Julián, are, “There are worse prisons than words.” What does she mean by this? What is she referring to?
4. There are many devil figures in the story—Carax’s Laín Coubert, Jacinta’s Zacarias, Fermín’s Fumero. How does evil manifest itself in each devil figure? What are the characteristics of the villains/devils?
5. Discuss the title of the novel. What is “The Shadow of the Wind“? Where does Zafón refer to it and what does he use the image to illustrate?
Read more . . .

6. Zafón’s female characters are often enigmatic, otherworldly angels full of power and mystery. Clara the blind white goddess ultimately becomes a fallen angel; Carax credits sweet Bea with saving his and Daniel’s lives; Daniel’s mother is actually an angel whose death renders her so ephemeral that Daniel can’t even remember her face. Do you think Zafón paints his female characters differently than his male characters? What do the women represent in Daniel’s life? What might the Freud loving Miquel Moliner say about Daniel’s relationships with women?
7. Daniel says of The Shadow of the Wind, “As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within” (p. 7). Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind unfolds much the same way, with many characters contributing fragments of their own stories in the first person point of view. What does Zafón illustrate with this method of storytelling? What do the individual mini-autobiographies contribute to the tale?
8. The evil Fumero is the only son of a ridiculed father and a superficial, status-seeking mother. The troubled Julián is the bastard son of a love-starved musical mother and an amorous, amoral businessman, though he was raised by a cuckolded hatmaker. Do you think their personalities are products of nature or nurture? How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon each of the characters?
(Discussion Questions from

The Shadow of the Wind at your favorite bookseller

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Other Works by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

And the books, according to Carlos Ruiz Zafon, that are “indelible proof
women are smarter than men.” (Sorry guys! I just thought that was cute!)

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories by Angela Carter To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte The Woman in Black by Susan HillThe Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Author

Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona in 1964. Be sure to read the great quote from Carlos Ruiz Zafón at the end of this post.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon(I love the red bookcases!)

List of Awards for The Shadow of the Wind

  • Joseph-Beth and Davis-Kidd Booksellers Fiction Award
  • Borders Original Voices Award
  • NYPL Books to Remember 2004
  • Book Sense Book of the Year: Honorable Mention
  • Horror Guild Award: Nominee
  • Gumshoe Award
  • Barry Award 2005

“In fact I don’t think of literature, or music, or any art form as having a nationality. Where you’re born is simply an accident of fate. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be more interested in say, Dickens, than in an author from Barcelona simply because I wasn’t born in the UK. I do not have an ethno-centric view of things, much less of literature. Books hold no passports. There’s only one true literary tradition: the human.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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