Goodreads: 5 Starts.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote a dark and shadowy Barcelona, ‘dark’ is not the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of Barcelona but in this book the theme of ‘shadows’ and mystery is a device used to create a modern Gothic narrative. On my copy of the book, this novel is described as a ‘Thriller.’ Which it might be. What it is, in fact, is a fusion of humour, the Gothic/ horror, and according to Zafón himself a “feel-good novel.” Which it is, including the above mentioned things, this really did makes one feel good, after making them feel all sorts of awful it circles back to a whole lot of good.
I devoured all 500+ pages in a matter of days. I’m a slow reader but by abandoning all my responsibilities, showering less, and taking the book with me to the bathroom; I was done reading in less than a week. And I regret nothing! Except that I didn’t read it sooner, thinking it was just another generic work of popular fiction. And someone may disagree, although I don’t know of many who would, but this is anything but generic.
“Gilbert prided himself on being an unusually well-informed man. No doubt the sun did too. No doubt the sun knew why the clouds formed and why the wind blew and why the lizards basked in its warmth, and all this immense knowledge made the sun gay and bright, full of trust and affection for mankind. But there were shut-away worlds, full of mistrust and hate, and it was about this side that Makhaya was particularly well informed.” (p. 89)
“How [do you] explain to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional as weapons than as humans.”
― Kamila Shamsie, Burnt Shadows
In all its optimism of the 90’s this story speaks in favour of hybridity and fluidity of identity. To not allow ourselves or others to put us in boxes of race, class or gender; to just be anything you want at any given moment and not be constrained or expect such things of others. But here, the characters only find this freedom in drugs and alcohol. The most intoxicated are the most liberated because they are too mentally disengaged from societal structures to participate in dogma or obligations.