Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Como Te Llamas?… Carlos Ruiz Zafon! ***Author Highlight***

What is it about Spanish authors? Their language is foreign to me, but their writing has such a beautiful rhythm & flow. It is as though I am reading their native language somehow, when I open one of their books and begin reading. The way the words are painted on the page seems so different. That is how I feel when reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon. From the first book I read of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Shadow of the Wind, I was hooked on his writing, so today I thought I would share his "adult" books so you too could be swept away with his words…

Shadow of the Wind… Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out LA SOMBRA DEL VIENTO by Julian Carax. 

But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from LA SOMBRA DEL VIENTO, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax's work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

*The book that started it all, Shadow in the Wind, and my favorite. Complex, mysterious, with stories within stories, it is a wonderful read, and the writing is beautiful.

The Angel's Game… 'The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whoever cared to listen.' 

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David MartÌn, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. 

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has existed - a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home. 

Set in the turbulent 1920s, THE ANGEL'S GAME takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere & Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul. 

*Not my favorite book in the series. Sophomore curse? You know, how the second book is not up to the first for whatever reason, but a good read.

The Prisoner of Heaven… Barcelona, 1957. It the is week before Christmas in the Sempere & Sons bookshop. Daniel Sempere has married the love of his life Bea and they have had a son whilst their partner in crime, Fermín, is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. Just when it seems as if luck is finally smiling on them, a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters the shop. He insists on buying the most expensive volume on display - a beautiful illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo - and then proceeds to inscribe the book with the words 'To Fermín Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future'. 

Who is this man and what does he want of Fermín? The answer lies in a terrible secret that has lain hidden for two decades, an epic tale of imprisonment, betrayal, murder and love that leads back into the very heart of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

*Back to what I expect from the author's writing! And I can't wait for the next book! 

Shadow of the Wind was the start of a wonderful series. Set in Barcelona after the Spanish War, 1945, the story transports you to the dark hidden streets of Spain, with a story within a story. Though I think that the first book is the best, it is a gift to be able to read more from characters and places that you enjoyed and Carlos Ruiz Zafon gives us rich complex stories, layered with mystery and intrigue. Someday there will be a fourth and final book in the series, but until then…

Before his "adult" books, the author wrote YA novels. The Prince of Mist, The Midnight Palace and The Watcher in the Shadow were his first 3. I excitedly bought The Prince of Mist when it became available here (Zafon's novels usually take a year to make it to the States), but be it the timing, or the genre ( I never read YA back then), I just couldn't get into it. Maybe I was expecting more from it than I should have. I'm not giving up, I just put it aside for another time. But I am again excited that we are expecting another novel from Carlos Ruiz Zafon! Yes, it is another YA novel, but it sounds so good (and I do enjoy YA now)! It's also the last novel he wrote before Shadow in the Wind, and I'm hoping that translates into something different in his YA writing. This was also his last YA novel, and of that he writes:
"By then I had already published three novels for young adults but soon after embarking on Marina I knew that this would be the last I'd write in the genre. As the writing advanced, everything in the story began to acquire a shade of farewell, and by the time I'd finished it, I sensed that something inside me, something that even today I cannot explain, but that I still miss every single day, was forever left among its pages."
Here's the scoop on Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon…

Marina… 'Fifteen years on, the remembrance of that day has returned to me. I have seen that boy wandering through the mist of the railway station, and the name of Marina has flared up again like a fresh wound. We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine...' 

In May 1980, 15-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts... 

His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father German Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings. 

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

Intrigued by Carlos Ruiz Zafon? Have you read any of his books? If so, what did you think? Marina was published Dec. 2013 in the UK. It's not available here yet, but if you're as interested as I am, you can order it through The Book Depository (amazon's UK rival), where shipping is free worldwide and the prices are usually discounted a bit.

Happy reading… Suzanne

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