Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later — no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget — we will return.
I often reread books while my life is in transition. When the outside world feels unreliable, there’s something comforting about returning to a favorite book. I can count on the fact that it will be enjoyable. As I prepared to move to Minneapolis last summer, I found myself rereading one of the latest Sarah Dessen novels. So it doesn’t surprise me that as this school year came to a close, I picked up an old favorite.
I first read The Shadow of the Wind during my freshman year of college. The book was recommended by my favorite high school English teacher, and I loved it with a passion. The beautifully rendered prose, the historical Barcelona setting, a story of literary mystery and romance — I considered it perfect in every detail. Since then I have counted it as one of my favorite books. More than four years later, I still remembered certain scenes and quotations. I was almost afraid to reread it, in case the reality couldn’t live up to my memories. Then one day, it just felt right.
A favorite book will never let you down, and that’s why I love them. If anything, The Shadow of the Wind was better than I remembered. Four years was long enough to forget the finer plot points, so I was able to relive the mystery almost as a first-time reader. On the other hand, I could anticipate favorite scenes, which were made all the more enjoyable by reading them in the context of the whole book.
The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of Daniel Sempere, a bookseller’s son, who investigates the life of his favorite author, the obscure but brilliant Julián Carax. It’s fascinating to see how the two men’s lives intertwine until the book becomes as much Julián’s story as Daniel’s. I’m always amazed that Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s books are originally written in Spanish. Credit must be given to the translator Lucia Graves for preserving the descriptive power of the language. With its refreshing combination of artistry and wit, the prose style evokes the mood that makes the story work.
In his next book The Angel’s Game, Zafón explores a similar setting with new characters and themes. The Angel’s Game has a darker tone overall, but the writing remains superb. While working on this post, I made a very exciting discovery. There is now a third book in this sort-of-series, titled The Prisoner of Heaven. Guess what just moved to the top of my summer reading list?