Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Shadow of the Wind

Aside from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (which I'm tipping not just for the Whitbread Best Debut award, but, being a bold kinda gal, the final Best Novel one as well - it was always more of a Whitebread book than a Booker one), what's going to be the big book in Britain this Christmas? Well, Phoenix are hoping that it could be Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, after Waterstones' buyer Scott Pack talked them into producing an early trade-paperback edition in time for Christmas. So says this article from today's Independent, in any case. Since the hardback was first published here last May (ish) it has sold 3,500 copies, and Mr Pack predicts that this new edition will have twice that in its first two weeks of release.

Personally, I hope the book suceeds mightily. It's fantastic, as I'm sure anyone who's read it - Stephen King, say, or even Joschka Fischer - will tell you. If you believe the article's general tone, it could be huge. "...the same potential as Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières" says Kirsty Dunseath, editorial director of the imprint. Steady on there... She goes on to say:
"It's what you hope for as an editor. It's got everything; a really strong plot, it's commercial, but it's also literary. It has thriller elements and history thrown in. It defies genre," she said.

Most of which is true. Certainly, it defies genre - there just isn't a pigeonhole for gothic-historical-romantic adventure stories. Dumasesque, definitely. It has a superb plot also - a lavish, delcious, labyrinthine book it most unquestionably is. But, saying it's literary is perhaps aiming a bit too high. There is without doubt a literary quality, but, aside being a spell-binding paean to the love of books and reading, there's little of real literature in it. The writing is lush but too elaborate - the book is full of metaphors that don't connect, similies that lack an internal logic on a paragraph-by-paragraph level. The writing is a treat, yes, but adjectives and such are subjected to an extensive overuse, pressed into service like tired old soldiers.

Despite that, I do love it. It's a wonderful, wonderful book, and I hope that it finds every sucess. It's about time a work of translated fiction saw massive sucess. I don't think it's happened since Peter Hoeg kicked off the Europe-wide thirst for Scandinavian crime-fiction with Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow in 1992.

As with the Rendell book last week, here are some colelcted reviews from The British Press:

This is Lewis Jones' full review from The Telegraph, briefly quoted in today's article. So impressed is he, I shall quote the first paragraph myself:

For the first time in 20 years or so as a book reviewer, I am tempted to dust off the old superlatives and even to employ some particularly vulgar clichés from the repertoire of publishers' blurbs. My colleagues may be shocked, but I don't care, I can't help myself, here goes. The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller's art. I couldn't put it down. Enchanting, thrilling, hilarious and heartbreaking, this book will change your life. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, who is 40 and Spanish, has done that exceedingly rare thing – he has produced, in his first novel, a popular masterpiece, an instant classic.

Here's another, this time from The Sunday Telegraph. And, from The Observer, another. And yet another, from The Guardian this time. And, oh yes, fancy another? Well, here it is, courtesy of The Spectator.

Basically, whether you be in the US or UK, get it, from library or friend or bookshop it matters not. You'll not regret reading it - it's a marvellous experience.

"I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day."