Book Review “The Shadow of the Wind”


With literary fiction, people take out of it what they bring to it.  For this reason, what will stay with me about “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is not the literary flair making the prose ring true, the good use of beats and pace or the way he stretches and deepens the moments of suspense to keep the reader holding their breath.  What I will remember about this novel is the descriptions of life lived under brutal, arbitrary authority.  Spanish authors are able to capture with greater precision and passion life in times of dictatorship.  The rot of Franco’s ruthlessness has left an odor that permeates the art of a generation. 


The Shadow of the Wind is a story about a book – and the son of a book salesman.  In America where we have bookstores on every corner, this story might not seem interesting.  But life for the patrons of the arts in Franco’s Spain was fraught with peril.  Dictators generally lack sophistication and are intimidated by what they do not understand.  Blood they have no problem with, it is ink they fear.  The plot of the story is about love and the human condition, about a boy making his way to manhood in perilous times.  But a boy before all.  Those of us who have been boys will understand and smile at the struggles and frustrations; with the agony of new love and the impatient desperation of its whispered word. 


Like with all good fiction, the end might surprise; and Zafon is confident enough to tell the story the way he felt he needed to, not the way we hope it would go.  That is also an aftereffect of the Franco days; the Hollywood ending that Americans love so much is seldom present in Spanish literature and art – it does not do honor and justice to those who suffered. 


Read this book, and see if you also take out if it what you brought to it in the first place.  


Joel D. Hirst is a novelist, author of “The Lieutenant of San Porfirio” – and its Spanish version “El Teniente de San Porfirio: Cronica de una Revolucion Bolivariana”.

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About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright, author of the recently released novel "Lords of Misrule" about jihad in the Sahara. Joel has also written "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio".
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