Someone is burning up all of Julian Carax’s books, a man with a leathery face who calls himself after the name of the devil in Carax’s latest book. Young Daniel Sempere, son of a bookseller, saves his copy of The Shadow of the Wind by Carax, and sets out on a quest to discover the truth behind Julian Carax’s life, death, and legacy.
This book is not at all what I thought it would be. It was interesting, and I enjoyed the audiobook a lot, but the ending kind of fell apart. There were definitely twists I didn’t figure out ahead of time – Carax and his love Penelope being half-siblings, the fact that the devil character was Carax himself – but some of it felt anticlimactic, especially that last one. I wondered from the beginning why the Devil only approached Daniel once, and why he didn’t follow through with his threats. The explanations for that, in the end, felt silly and contrived. Other than that, though, I liked the story, and the slow uncovering of the mystery.
The most interesting thing about this book to me, though, was the timing of when I read it. While listening to the audio, I also watched both The Blond Venus and Anna Karenina, two movies about women who are denied access to their children because they were unfaithful. There was a lot of emphasis in both movies, and in this book, about women and purity and virginity. Daniel’s best friend hates him for falling in love with his (the best friend’s) sister. When Penelope’s family discovers Carax is having an affair with her, they all fly into a rage – though I suppose, that’s later explained to be a family thing, rather than just a purity thing. Still, there’s a lot of “women need to be locked up because they’re impure” themes running through this book. All three of these books/movies either took place or were made in a time long ago, and they’re contrasted with men who are unfaithful or sexual and who aren’t considered disgraceful or bad people. Of course.
I enjoyed the book, but I think in the end, the story was weaker than it should have been. So much of the action happened elsewhere, and this book is just the uncovering of it. I wondered if the book might have been better told not from Daniel’s point of view, but from Julian’s, or one of the women’s, or even in third person through multiple time periods. This was Julian’s story, not Daniel’s, and I wish it had been told that way.
Performance: The audio production was pretty good, though I could have done without all the musical effects. I did like Jonathan Davis’ reading.