Carlos Ruiz ZafÃ³n’s The Shadow of the Wind was a fun but over-worded novel. When Daniel, Julian, and Fumero finally meet in the geometric web in the same room, the vectors intersect and the parallels move to climax and the complexity is unwoven. But then clunk.
It wasn’t hard, early on in the novel, to grasp the “burned man’s” identity; this, however, didn’t matter. One of the things that kept me reading was a simple question: why would Julian want to destroy his creative imprint? Thus, the slow, multi-voiced unfolding. ZafÃ³n crafts an interesting space, a wet, slick, smoky, and tightly designed and powerfully stratified Barcelona, but I wonder at the end of the novel in light of its concept of parallel narrative and sense of solipsistic interiority. Yes, the mystery of identity and cruelty is solved (we learn from Nuria why Julian would burn his books and why he morphs into Lain Colbert), but the suggestion of a reverberative lack beyond just the solutions (those that Daniel seeks) makes me smile a bit.
In the novel, Julian flees to France, avoiding anger over a relationship with his half-sister, Penelope. He lives most of his life in France ignorant of his son’s and Penelope’s cruel death, all the time hoping for a convergence. This narrative approach (we want to know the consequences of his knowing, which doesn’t necessarily require a linear telling) makes Daniel’s decisions and actions at least interesting enough to follow or reflect upon. Daniel’s innocent actions ripple and effect everyone, including Julian. If I wasn’t in such a good mood (at least a little beyond brooding), I’d argue that Zafon dwells a little much on details that prove ambient but skippable, much like the contents of a Harry Potter novel (I’ve read two, well one and a half, if you don’t count the parts I skipped; make that one then).
Side note: The more I think about Borges’ ideas on story length, the more I agree with him.
Now to finish Andreas.