Books 3/15/05

I finished Alba, which was as good as I remembered it being. Delacorta rules.

I also finished The Shadow of the Wind, which has the distinction at this point in time as being the best book I’ve read this year. I just looked, and there’s really a strong possibility that it’s the best book I’ve read in the whole of last year too. (If you haven’t read my previous post about it, jump down and read it so you’re all caught up. It’s just the next post down. We’ll wait here.)The writing is gorgeous, in that frustrating “I could never, ever, in my entire life write a book like this” kind of way. I almost cried four different times while reading it, and when I got to the end I was close to tears simply because I was overcome by the beauty of it all.

There’s a quote from the beginning of the novel, as Daniel describes reading the book that will change his life, that in turn describes my experience with this book.

“As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections. The minutes and hours glided by as in a dream. … I was plunged into a new world of images and sensations, peopled by characters who seemed as real to me as my room. … My eyes began to close, but I resisted. I did not want to lose the story’s spell or bid farewell to its characters yet.” p 7

I know I’m about to sound all hippy here, but there’s something magical about this book. It’s one of those dream books, the kind you want on a desert island, the kind that sucks you in and doesn’t let go as you live in someone else’s life. The mysteries in it are so tangled, so circular and reflective, that at every turn there’s a suprise, something that sends your thoughts spiraling in another direction in an attempt to make the connections needed to solve them. The characters are so vivid that they’ll break your heart, and if you make it all the way through the book without feeling at least nervous for a number of them, if not downright terrified, we really have nothing to talk about.

The moral of the book, and the reason I had such a strong reaction to it, is that stories have immense power. The stories we tell, and the ones we don’t, bind us together in unimaginable ways. Books have the power to influence the course of our lives, and in some cases, posess a saving grace. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough.

I know I was doing really well at alternating fiction and non-fiction, but Eleanor Roosevelt ruined my streak. I have a couple novels due back to the library soon, so I’ll be reading those next: Wake Up, Sir by Jonathan Ames, and The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. I’ve heard great things about both of them.

Current total: 23
Just Finished: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Next Up: Wake Up, Sir by Jonathan Ames

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