A few nights ago I stayed up until 5 in the morning trying to finish a book that held me enchanted. This book, part mystery, part a book of wisdom, and part a story of growing up, kept me unable to go to sleep without getting to the last page and reaching its satisfying conclusion. The book drew me into its pages in a number of ways, starting in a flash, and then building up steadily until the final burst at the end of the novel. This book, called The Shadow of the Wind, was recommended to me both because of its outstanding story and because it is set in Barcelona. There is no better time to read a book set in Barcelona than when one is actually living here. I read the novel with Google Maps open so that I could see exactly which streets the characters were traversing, but it would be just as thrilling with no knowledge of Barcelona. Though it was originally written in Spanish by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I read it in English so that I could understand every word.
I was enthralled with the book in its first chapter. It included many things that I love in a novel, a strong beginning, mysterious places, and a love of books. It is only a few pages into the novel when I knew that I would thoroughly enjoy it. Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and describes it thus:
“Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel” … “This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of a person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you’ll be able to keep such a secret?”
I love to read stories about people who share my passion for books, as they can understand the wonder that a good story brings. How time can disappear, and how even holding a book in your hand can bring a sense of contentment. They are people who love words for their own sake, who know the knowledge, wisdom, understanding one can glean from a well-written story. This sentence describes accurately the feeling I have when looking for a new book to read:
“I leafed through the pages, inhaling the enchanted scent of promise that comes with all new books, and stopped to read the start of a sentence that caught my eye.”