Daniel Sempere is a ten-year-old boy whose father owns an antique bookshop in Spain. His mother died when he was young, and nothing of note had occurred in his life until his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret library that contains forgotten or protected stories. He is to select one book, which will be his duty to guard and love for all of his days. He selects a novel by the obscure Julián Carax, a man whose life and death are both cryptic, not knowing that uncloaking these mysteries will endanger and begin his life. Through the streets of Spain amidst civil war and corrupt policemen, on his quest to solve the mysteries of a great novelist, Daniel will meet the oddest and most loyal of friends, fall in love, and finally grow into adulthood. Brilliant and disturbing, revealing the sinister nature of more than one madman, and the kindheartedness of whores and homeless men, The Shadow of the Wind is one of the last great Gothic novels, and a poetic mystery.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote sequels to this book, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. His other works translated into English are Marina, The Midnight Palace, The Prince of Mist, and The Watcher in the Shadows.
Some of the books mentioned within this one are the works of Alexandre Dumas, particularly Les Miserables, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Voltaire’s Candide, Pygmalion, a play that Barcelo used to compare himself and Bernarda to, saying he would be Professor Higgins and she Eliza. This play was turned into a wonderful musical called My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Another character mentioned was Sancho Panza, from Don Quixote, whom Bernarda thought Barcelo was similar to. Julián Carax was said to have “set off for Paris, Odysseus-fashion” which is a character from the book The Odyssey by Homer. Also mentioned are the authors, Balzac, Zola, Pablo Neruda, and Dickens.
Daniel thinks Fermín is “the wisest and most lucid man in the universe” much like Dorian Gray thought of Lord Henry Watton, in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Daniel’s offer to read to Clara is much like Pip’s duties for Miss Havisham and her daughter in the beginning of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. This novel is similarly filled with mysteries and unraveling backstories of intriguing, unusual characters.
The way that Julián Carax lived in his novels and characters is much like how Voldemort lived in his Horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Also One of Julián’s novels, The Red House, was about “a sinister mansion that was larger inside than out. It slowly changed shape, grew new corridors, galleries, and improbable attics, endless stairs that ended nowhere,” much like some of the stairways and halls at Hogwarts.
When the blind girl Clara touched Daniel’s face for the first time in order to “see” it, “Her fingers smelled of cinnamon.” Later, of the maid in Clara’s home, she bragged that “Bernarda makes the most breathtaking cinnamon sponge cakes.” Antony Fortuny also often invited Sophie to “have a hot chocolate with sponge fingers on Calle Canuda.”
Cinnamon Sponge Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting
- 1 1/2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp milk, at room temperature (I use 2%)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 4-5 drops cinnamon oil
- Combine half a stick (one quarter cup) salted butter at room temperature with the granulated sugar in mixing bowl on medium-low. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, one tablespoon of ground cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder. Allow butter and sugar to combine about two minutes, then add eggs, one at a time, and half the flour mixture, very slowly.
- Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, sour cream, and one half cup of milk, followed by the rest of the flour. Mix until just combined. Scoop into a paper-lined cupcake tin and bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes.
- For the frosting: mix one stick of room temperature (one half cup) salted butter with the remaining one teaspoon of vanilla, and one cup of powdered sugar on medium-low using a stand or hand mixer. Then add the remaining cinnamon, the cinnamon oil (I used Lorann) and cup and a half of powdered sugar. Mix on medium speed until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the insides of the bowl if needed, to make sure all the powdered sugar is incorporated. Frost onto cupcakes that have been cooled at least 15-20 minutes.
- Why did Clara warn, “Never trust anyone, Daniel, especially the people you admire. Those are the ones who will make you suffer the worst blows.” About whom was he speaking, and could she have known how she’d later break his heart?
- Why was Julián’s father, the hatmaker, so cruel to him and his mother?
- What did Julián’s room look like at his parent’s old apartment, and why?
- What were some of the lies Nuria Monfort told Daniel? Was the following phrase true: “There are worse prisons than words”? Why did she hide so much from him and her father?
- How did Julián live in his stories and who inspired him to create his characters?
- Did Julián have a “good father”? Fumero insisted that Daniel did, for he was “a man with a head, a heart, and a soul. A man capable of listening, of leading and respecting a child, and not of drowning his own defects in him.” Did Daniel think Fumero would be such a man as a father? Are there any other traits you would add to the list of Daniel’s father that made him a good man?
- Fermín stated about Julián being allowed entrance at a prestigious school was for a hidden, non-altruistic motive: “Sometimes these illustrious institutions offer a scholarship…just to show their magnanimity…the most efficient way of rendering the poor harmless is to teach them to want to imitate the rich.” Did many people Daniel or Julián knew fall under this trap? Who was immune?
- How was the relationship shared by Julián, Jorge, and Penélope like that of Daniel, Bea, and Tomas?
- Why did Daniel want so desperately to “unravel the mystery of Julián Carax and rescue him from oblivion” and what did it have to do with his mother?
- Why did Daniel consider Fermín the “wisest and most lucid man in the universe” and trust his advice so implicitly?
- Maria Jacinta Coronado “wanted only one thing in life, to be a woman, to be a mother.” In what ways was she both granted and denied that request? How did this relationship end in tragedy and what became of Jacinta?
- What is the story of the Victor Hugo pen and its travels? With whom did it end and how?
- Miquel Moliner complained that “Making money isn’t hard in itself. What’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to.” What had his father dedicated his life to doing in order to obtain a fortune, and what did Miquel do with that fortune?
- One of Julián’s novels, The Red House, was about “a sinister mansion that was larger inside than out. It slowly changed shape, grew new corridors, galleries, and improbable attics, endless stairs that ended nowhere.” To what sinister mansion in his own life was this a comparison? What were some of the sinister occurrences in this mansion, and what did it end as? Are there any real places like this in the world?
- What was really killing Antony Fortuny was “his loneliness. Memories are worse than bullets.” What memories tormented him, and who came to visit him weekly near the end of his life to help abate his loneliness?
- Nuria felt that “nothing is more frightening than a hero who lives to tell his story, to tell what all those who fell at his side will never be able to tell.” Of whom was she speaking, herself or another? And was it only the civil war that she was speaking of surviving?
- Nuria warned Daniel that “there are no coincidences. We are puppets of our subconscious desires.” Of what desires was she a puppet, which for Julián or Daniel?
- Julián once told Nuria that “a story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.” Of what things did he perhaps tell himself in his novels? Nuria also wrote a story, albeit an honest one, what things did she reveal to herself? Did Fermín, who spoke stories, have any revelations for himself or Daniel?
- Bea says that reading “is an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us.” What did The Shadow of the Wind offer to Daniel? Is this why he loved the book so much more than the others whom he allowed to read it, such as Clara or Fermín? Would this explain Julián and his novels?
- What was the truth about Julián Carax?