The Shadow of the Wind is a book of excitement and intrigue by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is the first book in the Cemetery of Forgotten series, set in Barcelona in the post-war 1940s.
Daniel lives alone with his father after his mother passes away when he is 4. The two are close and on his tenth birthday, his father brings him to a secret library called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which contains books that the world has forgotten. Daniel has the choice of one book to keep as his own. He feels connected to the protagonist in the book and wants to find other books by the author, Julian Carax. This takes him into a world of danger and intrigue as he tries to find out about the life and death of Carax.
Although primarily a historical fiction with commentary on the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime, The Shadow of the Wind also contains elements of romance and gothic fiction.
I found the story to be multi-layered and thrilling, with intricate plot twists.
As he tries to learn about Carax, the first friend he meets is Clara, a beautiful, blind, young lady. Despite the age difference, Daniel is completely infatuated with Clara and devoted to her. Although this causes some distance from his father, he remains committed to her and their friendship. He even gives her his special book.
When Clara pulls away, he perseveres, until one night, when he goes to reclaim the book and finds her in bed with the music teacher, Neri. The music teacher reclaims the key that Clara’s family had given Daniel for him to come and go into the house, beats him up, and throws him out.
The Shadow in the Dark
After he got the book from the Cemetery of Lost Books, Daniel notices someone watching him, who looks like a character from the book, the Devil. One night, the shadow approaches Daniel and lets him know that he wants the book. Scared of what might happen to Clara, since he gave her the book, Daniel retrieves the book from her father’s library and returns it to the cemetery for safekeeping.
On the night that he is beaten by Neri, Daniel meets a homeless man, Fermín. Fermín tells him that he was a spy and that the police inspector, Fumero, is out to get him. Daniel is incredulous, but when his father mentions needing an assistant at the bookstore, Daniel remembers Fermín. They take Fermín in for a couple of weeks, bathe and clothe him, and he is a new man. After a couple of weeks, he moves out. Fermín is great at finding rare books with his investigative eye.
After Fermin is hired, Inspector Fumero, the brutal city police chief, visits the store to warn Daniel about him and the local watchmaker, Don Federico. Frederico is gay and performs as a drag queen, and Fumero uses that as an excuse to harass him.
Daniel’s best friend for years was Tomas. His sister, Bea, scared him a little when they were young. But when they meet up again, they make plans to spend some time together. When they get together, he takes her to the Cemetery of Lost Books.
Daniel makes great progress in his investigation when he visits Julian’s old apartment and convinces the landlady to let him in. Once inside, he steals a photo and a letter to Julian from Penelope.
The next person that Daniel meets who is connected to Julian is Nuria, who was the secretary of the publishing house that published Carax’s books. She does a good job of hiding the truth from Daniel, going as far as denying knowing anything about Penelope, even when Daniel shows her the picture. Daniel is surprised by his attraction to Nuria, but resists acting on it.
As Daniel and Fermín continue sleuthing, they find out that Nuria is playing the part of the lawyer, who continues to pay the landlady for Julian’s apartment.
When Fermin and Daniel visit the priest at the school where Julian attended, they learn a bit about him and his friends. He was friends with Jorge (Aldaya), Fumero and Miquel. Mr. Aldaya paid his tuition at the school until he abruptly stopped. Daniel and Fermín also visited the Aldayas’ old nanny, who lived in an insane asylum run by nuns. She was placed there to keep her quiet about the Aldayas.
Given that Bea’s father was the realtor selling the old Aldaya house, she gets the key so that she and Daniel could visit the house. They meet there several times and develop a romantic relationship. Eventually, Daniel discovers Penelope’s tomb.
As Daniel and Fermín make progress in their search, Fumero keeps close watch on them. After their visit to the asylum, Fumero deliberately runs into Daniel and Fermín. Fermín provokes him with words, and Fumero responds by attacking Fermín while his goons hold Daniel back. Fermin is so badly beaten that Daniel fears for his life, but he makes it.
The Death of Nuria
Once Fermín and Daniel discover that Nuria is lying, they set a trap for her. This gives Fumero the perfect opportunity to get rid of her and accuse Fermín of the act.
Nuria, worried about Daniel’s investigation, had visited her father and given him a letter for Daniel the day before she was killed. In the letter, she revealed Julian’s story. Penelope and Julian, who were in love with each other, were siblings but did not know that. When Mr. Aldaya found out that Penelope was pregnant and Julian was the father, he stopped paying for Julian’s schooling and had him kicked out. Once the doctor confirmed that she had been deflowered and was probably pregnant, he locked her up in her room and ignored her medical needs. She gave birth alone to a stillborn child and hemorrhaged to death.
Once Mrs. Aldaya died, the father and son, Jorge, set off for Argentina. Jorge swore to kill Julian, blaming him for the death and everything else that happened to the family. Two days before landfall, Mr. Aldaya threw himself into the ocean. When Jorge returned to Barcelona ten years later, he asked Fumero for help with his revenge.
Fumero had always been a bully. He tortured animals as a kid and murdered them without conscience. He was in love with Penelope and hated Carax for being with her. Once he learned Jorge’s story, he tried unsuccessfully to get Julian’s address, even following Nuria. He fantasized about stabbing her to death to know her secret. But his grand plan was to use Jorge to get rid of everyone involved.
Miquel and Nuria
Throughout the years, Miquel remained a good friend to Julian. Having come from a rich family, he financed the publishing of all Julian’s books. He spent his inheritance atoning for his sins and not taking care of the family home. Eventually, his brothers kicked him out because of this.
When Miquel met Nuria, they spent time together, and he fell in love with her, but his love was unrequited. Nuria was in love with Julian, sight unseen. When she went to Paris for work, she stayed with Julian, and they had an affair for two weeks, but she realized that his heart remained with Penelope forever.
Nuria found Miquel, sick with tuberculosis, in a pension and took him home. They got married secretly. Miquel contributed to their livelihood as long as he could by writing for the paper. As Miquel’s condition worsened, he could barely work. He eventually lost his job due to missed deadlines and threats to his employers.
Jorge Aldaya Returns
When Jorge showed up, it was under the pretense of a reunion, but he was really trying to get Julian’s address. Miquel lied and said Julian was living in Italy and that he didn’t have the address. Jorge cursed them and let them know he knew of their marriage, also sharing greetings from Fumero.
When Fumero visits, it is to inform Miquel of Julian’s impending marriage to Irene, a madam in Paris. He sets up Jorge to challenge Julian to a duel on the day of the wedding. He provided a gun and make it seem like a romantic endeavor. Jorge was to tell Julian that Penelope was waiting for him as a way to lure Julian to shoot Jorge and return to Barcelona. The gun blew up in Jorge’s hands once he fired it, as Fumero intended.
Miquel and Nuria were informed by Irene of the duel and started looking for Julian even while the war raged on.
Miquel left home in the middle of the night, leaving a note behind, and met Julian at the Aldaya house. Julian hid at his father’s house while he looked for Penelope but had no luck, so Miquel took over. When Julian and Miquel caught up at a café for an update, the waiter called Fumero.
Fumero sent other policemen to the café before his arrival. Miquel used Julian’s gun to kill two or three policemen before one of the policemen shot him, providing an opportunity for Julian to escape. Miquel was carrying Julian’s papers to make it look like Julian was the one killed. The undertaker thought that something was odd about the situation and called the publisher of his books, which is how Nuria found out.
Julian and Nuria Reunite
When Nuria got home, she found Julian there. After spending the day at the beach, they went to the Aldaya house. Julian used acid to force the lock. As he explored the house, he discovered a crude wall. Breaking through it revealed the door to the two tombstones of Penelope and their child. His response was hatred for himself. He decided then to get rid of all his books as punishment because he kept living and writing while Penelope lay dead.
Julian burned all the copies of his books that Nuria had on her bookshelf; she got home one day to find them gone. He also burned down the warehouse where the publisher kept his books and suffered serious burns in the process. The publisher had tried to negotiate a higher price when Julian offered to purchase the books.
Julian stayed in the hospital recovering for 11 months as Miquel Milliner. Despite him saying “leave me”, Nuria took him home one year later when he was discharged. He got better but upon seeing his disfigurement, he took on the character of Lain Coubert, one of the characters from his books, who happened to be the devil.
Making a Living
When Daniel was a boy, he dreamed of owning a pen that Victor Hugo allegedly owned. He and his father would visit the pen, and his father bought it for him on his sixteenth birthday. This pen had belonged to Julian. It was one of the things that Nuria sold to make enough money for them to survive.
Nuria thought that Julian was confined to the house, but then she discovered that he was getting rid of his books on nighttime prowls. Nuria visited Fortuny, Julian’s (not biological) father, and listens to him reminiscing, letting him believe Julian is in Paris. In desperation, she created the fictitious lawyer to contact Sophie (Julian’s mother) to get Julian access to Fortuny’s estate. After some time, she also got work translating or in publishing houses. She lived with a phantom, and found moments of comfort with strangers while fighting feelings of betrayal.
Meeting in Shadow
When a young informer showed up asking questions, Nuria moved Julian back to his old home and locked him in each night after visiting him. Nuria had to ward off physical advances from her boss, a friend of Fumero. As a result of this, he fired her. When she told Julian, he went out that night along the rooftops as he generally did, and broke the neck of the publisher. He left the publisher on a bench outside, where people would find him the next morning. This gave Fumero an excuse to arrest, slap and threaten Nuria. He and his goons wrecked her home, defecating on her bed as well. From then, Nuria only saw Julian in cinemas, where he would find her. That’s where she learned about Daniel and his book and his curiosity.
Julian was living at the Aldaya mansion, looking over the dead. He watched Daniel, even as Daniel searched for him. Although he threatened Daniel over the book, we get the impression that he was curious about Daniel and wanted to be found by Daniel. He saw a bit of himself in Daniel and wanted to connect with him.
The Ending of The Shadow of the Wind
Fermín and his friends picked Daniel up in a car to rescue him from Fumero?
Daniel found out that Bea was pregnant (with his child) and had run away. He found her in the Adalaya house. She managed to stay out of the fray during the fight involving Daniel, Julian, Fumero, and Palacios (a police officer who had tried to help Daniel despite working with Fumero). Daniel was shot while tackling Fumero as he shot Julian. Julian managed to get hold of Fumero and threw him into the empty fountain in the front of the house, where he was speared by an old statue, the hand of an angel.
Daniel and Julian get to say farewell to each other, and Daniel gives him the pen back.
Bea and Daniel get married, take over the bookshop, and have one child. Fermin marries his love, Bernarda (Clara’s nanny) and they have four children. He works as the caretaker of the Cemetery of Lost Books. Tomas hasn’t forgiven Daniel for being with Bea; he is married with one child and lives in Germany. The Aldaya house sold and is now an advertising agency. Daniel and Bea receive a book from Julian dedicated to them, written using an alias.
The Shadow of the Wind ends with Daniel taking his son Julian, who is 10, to the cemetery to choose his own book. We’ve come full circle.
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