Dividing his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles, Carlos Ruiz Zafón is an author whose works have been published in over 40 languages, and whose stories have enraptured thousands. His six novels have spanned continents and ages and has strung magic and realism together so intricately that the separation can never be found.
I first discovered Zafón’s work on a whim when Waterstones were still doing their 3 for 2 offers and I picked it up because I liked the cover (as part of the Pick a Book game). The first book I ever picked up was The Shadow of the Wind…
The Shadow of the Wind is the story of Daniel and Julián Carax and Barcelona and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This is a mystery, a love story, magical realism and a history all rolled in to one. The city itself comes alive from the pages – I’ve never been to Barcelona, but I am in love with it because of this book. I push The Shadow of the Wind in to the hands of anyone who is willing, because I believe everyone should read this book at least once in their lives. I must have bought 5 or 6 copies over the years, because every time I give one away, I have to replace it so it sits on my bookshelf whenever I need it. This is a novel for book lovers – it is a novel about the love of books.
“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader that the first book that finds its way into his heart.” —The Shadow of the Wind
The Angel’s Game is the next book that I devoured from Zafón, and the next from the world of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and Barcelona. This is a darker tale than The Shadow of the Wind perhaps, but no less powerful and no less magical. David Martìn writes sensationalist novels under a pseudonym, whilst hiding himself in books and his rambling old home. When he is approached to write a very particular kind of tale, he realises there is more to the house and its previous owner than he previously imagined…
‘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.’ — The Angel’s Game
Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s first novel was in fact The Prince of Mist, a Young Adult novel set in a cottage on the coast during the Second World War. In keeping with his other tales, The Prince of Mist is filled with mystery, romance and adventure. And, in keeping with his other tales, this story transcends age – it doesn’t matter whether you’re an adult or child, this book is worth reading.
It’s a change of scenery for The Midnight Palace. This time we’re in Calcutta, where a shadowy figure pursues a brother and sister through the streets. This is another Young Adult novel, and although it reads like it sometimes, it’s most definitely a tale for all ages. It was a reminder again of why I love Zafón’s works – because even in its simplicity, it’s magic.
The next books I have to read are The Prisoner of Heaven and The Watcher in the Shadows. The former is the final instalment in the series about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (and something I’ve been desperately waiting for) and the latter is the final instalment of Zafón’s Young Adult novels. Both promise great things.
The joy of reading Zafón is the ability to completely immerse yourself in his writing and the world he creates. It’s like a comfort blanket – one you can return to again and again and still get the same feeling. The artistry of his language is nigh-on unsurpassed. It’s poetic and beautiful and honest. Everyone should experience his writing at least once in their lives.
“Sometimes people ask me what piece of advice I would give to an aspiring author. I’d tell them that you should only become a writer if the possibility of not becoming one would kill you.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafón
And when you hear him speak about writing, he is very much a writer after my own heart. His life is filled up with words, and it’s a need rather than a want to write. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy his writing so much – because it’s not only how I want to write but written by someone who experiences that self-same compulsion for storytelling. I’ve been told to read many books as a writer – to learn the craft – but Zafón is always one I recommend to others who want to read as a writer. If you don’t have a book of his on your shelves now, you need to get one, and soon.