For me, reading a book such as the one I'm about to introduce to you, is like having a conversation with a very close and dear friend; you never tire of the subject matter and when the conversation has to end, you look forward eagerly to continuing it the very next day. Such a book wraps you in its mysteries, introduces you to its characters like they are old friends, and takes you by the hand on an intimate and personal journey through each page, and ultimately at the end you are left mourning its completion as you close the cover for the final time and bid the characters farewell.
This book has been with me for over several months lying in my bedside cabinet ignored and alone. But now that has all changed. I've been reading this since Thursday 3rd October and I can't put it down.
An online gaming buddy and friend, 'the Nibbster' (a very cool and funny, not to mention talented gamer and all-round-nice-guy) recommended this book to me in a different life - yes, it seems that long ago - and I bought it online from Amazon that very same day, such was Nibby's praise for both book and author.
Certain events and life in general took over and I placed the book in a safe place and promptly 'forgot' about it. Well, I'm here now to rectify that mistake by spreading the love and sharing what I have discovered thus far - no, I haven't finished reading the story and I'm only half way through, but loving every page of it.
This book I can happily place with my last recommendation, ' The Book Thief '. From the moment you open the first page it subtly draws you in with a style and ease of writing that is both intelligent yet comfortable at the same time. Never in your face, or trying to push the pace, Zafón's a true master of his craft, weaving a scintillating mix of detective thriller, supernatural tale of horror, magical realist fable and heartbreaking love story, this has so far had me laughing aloud, whilst at other times weeping quietly.
The main character, David Martín is introduced to us as a young boy with a natural passion for writing, and by way of circumstance, is befriended by a rather influential gentleman, writer and newspaper owner Vidal Pedro, who becomes David's mentor and guide in the development of the young boy's budding writing career. Set in old Barcelona, the story begins in David's retelling of how he earned his first coins as a writer in the December of 1917, and from that moment you, the reader, are swept along a journey enveloped within a harrowing time of Spain's history, that is at times dark and bittersweet, gothic and potent all wrapped up beautifully in Zafón's skillful and often disturbing narrative.
Weighing in at a measly 504 pages (just joking), this book will keep you absorbed for a good measure of time, unless you eat books like they are going out of fashion, then it might occupy you for several days. I can highly recommend this book without hesitation. So if you have a gap in your reading list currently, click on the Amazon link above and get ordering (it's the UK site, so you might want to switch locations if outside the UK).
UPDATE: Finished the book this evening (Tuesday, 8th October).
So, several things I have to comment on regarding this book:
I grew to love two characters within the book, namely Isabelle and Señor Sempere (the father/owner of the bookstore).
I felt drawn to Isabella's wit, intellect and fire, whereas Sempere Snr was a solid, down-to-earth, dependable man within whom you could trust implicitly.
Ultimately--without giving away anything or spoilers--there were things that happened that I wished hadn't, and things that hadn't happened that I wished had. And at one point I actually thought, ' You bastard! ', regarding something the author had done within the book.
It left me feeling sad, slightly empty and being irritated by several questions left hanging within my head - BUT that is only my personal take on the book, so please do not be put off in reading this amazing, wonderful, bizarre and somewhat disturbing story.
As for the main character, David? Well, I'm not going to comment as it will only spoil the book ;)