Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About The Book
The Shadow of the Wind
is a coming-of-age tale of a young boy who, through
the magic of a single book, finds a purpose greater than himself and a hero in a
man he's never met. With the passion of García Márquez, the irony of Dickens,
and the necromancy of Poe, Carlos Ruiz Zafón spins a web of intrigue so thick
that it ensnares the reader from the very first line. The Shadow of the Wind
an ode to the art of reading, but it is also the perfect example of the
all-encompassing power of a well-told story.
At the first light of dawn in postwar Barcelona, a bookseller leads his
motherless son to a mysterious crypt called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
This labyrinthine sanctuary houses the books that have lost their owners, books
that are no longer remembered by anyone. It is here that ten-year-old Daniel
Sempere pulls a single bookThe Shadow of the Wind
off of the dusty shelves to
adopt as his own. With one fateful turn of a page, he begins an adventure that
will unravel another man's tragedy and solve a mystery that has already taken
many lives and will shape his entire future.
When Daniel speaks with Gustavo Barceló, a local booktrader, to find out more
about his new treasure, word begins to spread that he has uncovered a
long-sought rarity, perhaps the only copy of any of Julián Carax's works in
existence. Soon after, a mysterious stranger whom Daniel recognizes as Laín
Coubert, the leather-masked, cigarette-smoking devil from Carax's novel,
propositions Daniel, offering to buy the book from him for an astronomical
price. Daniel refuses, in spite of the man's thinly veiled threats. With the
help of his bookselling friends, Daniel discovers that Laín Coubert has cut a
swath of destruction through two countries, methodically searching for and
destroying all of Carax's books while erasing every trace of Carax's life.
- Julián Carax's and Daniel's lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet
one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between
the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid
- Nuria Monfort tells Daniel, "Julián once wrote that coincidences are the
scars of fate. There are no coincidences, Daniel. We are the puppets of our
unconscious." What does that mean? What does she refer to in her own experience
and in Julián's life?
- Nuria Monfort's dying words, meant for Julián, are, "There are worse
prisons than words." What does she mean by this? What is she referring to?
- There are many devil figures in the storyCarax's Laín Coubert, Jacinta's
Zacarias, Fermín's Fumero. How does evil manifest itself in each devil figure?
What are the characteristics of the villains/devils?
- Discuss the title of the novel. What is "The Shadow of the Wind"? Where
does Zafón refer to it and what does he use the image to illustrate?
- Zafón's female characters are often enigmatic, otherworldly angels full of
power and mystery. Clara the blind white goddess ultimately becomes a fallen
angel; Carax credits sweet Bea with saving his and Daniel's lives; Daniel's
mother is actually an angel whose death renders her so ephemeral that Daniel
can't even remember her face. Do you think Zafón paints his female characters
differently than his male characters? What do the women represent in Daniel's
life? What might the Freud loving Miquel Moliner say about Daniel's
relationships with women?
- Daniel says of The Shadow of the Wind, "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" (p. 7). Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind
unfolds much the same way, with many characters contributing fragments of their
own stories in the first person point of view. What does Zafón illustrate with
this method of storytelling? What do the individual mini-autobiographies
contribute to the tale?
- The evil Fumero is the only son of a ridiculed father and a superficial,
status-seeking mother. The troubled Julián is the bastard son of a love-starved
musical mother and an amorous, amoral businessman, though he was raised by a
cuckolded hatmaker. Do you think their personalities are products of nature or
nurture? How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon each of the
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.