Born in Barcelona in 1964, Carlos Ruiz Zafón is fast becoming one of the best known Spanish novelists outside of Spain. Starting out as a writer of fiction for young adults, he turned to adult novels in 2001 with the publication of ‘The Shadow of the Wind‘ (La sombra del viento), followed by ‘The Angel’s Game‘ (El juego del ángel) in 2008. In 2012, the third of what is to be a four book series, ‘The Prisoner of Heaven’ was published in English.
The books are based in Barcelona and are wonderfully evocative of the city in the early twentieth century, around the time that Gaudí was building his fabulous buildings and later. Each centres round a hidden library, called the cemetery of lost books, where long forgotten books are kept. Each novel’s main character is caught up in suspense and intrigue surrounding a particular book that they find there. There is a strong sense of good versus evil and some excellent plot twists
The books are suspense novels reminiscent of film noir, which Ruiz Zafón says are one of his main influences. He has said in interviews that he thinks of scenes in his novels as they might appear on the silver screen. The books also pay homage to the great gothic classics such as those of Wilkie Collins or ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. The writer lists authors such as Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo and Raymond Chandler among those he considers should be read by everyone.
They have been very beautifully translated so that none of the suspense, darkness or atmosphere has been lost in translation. Although I am fairly fluent in Spanish, I have cheated and read them in English as they are, if I may use a dreadful cliché, real page turners and I would not have the patience to read them with a dictionary by my side. The novels have been translated into forty different languages in total
If you are looking for something with a difference, with strong characters, excellent storylines that really make you think, then pick up ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ and head into the streets of Barcelona with Carlos Ruiz Zafón.