My mother read this story a few years ago and rather enjoyed it. I remember her telling me that I would appreciate the sardonic humor that is interwoven throughout the story. She was absolutely spot on. Some of the descriptions in this book are wonderfully bleak:Between you and me, this business of the seventh art leaves me cold. As far as I can see, it’s only a way of feeding the mindless and making them even more stupid. Worse than football or bullfights. The cinema began as an invention for entertaining the illiterate masses....Fermín’s attitude changed radically the day he discovered Carole Lombard....A few seconds later, Veronica Lake made her grand entrance onto the scene, and Fermín was transported to another plane.[Sister Hortensia] wandered off into the shadows, carrying her bucket and dragging her shadow like a bridal veil.Covered in bandages, dressings, and slings, Fermín held [Bernarda] tenderly, stroking her hair. His face carried a bruise that hurt to look at, and from it emerged his large unharmed nose, two ears like sails, and the eyes of a dispirited mouse. His toothless smile, through lips covered in cuts, was triumphant, and he greeted us with his right hand raised in the sign of victory.
I have a soft spot for crusty yet suave characters and Fermín is one of the best. He is very much like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine
. When Fermín pursues Bernarda, it is easy to picture Compo’s various attempts to win the affections of Nora Batty. ;)
My favorite part of this book was the secret mystery of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books...the imagery of little Daniel and his father embarking on this special quest of discovery and rediscovery. This first section of the book has a personal, solemn, almost religious tone—Daniel’s own rite of passage to literature and life. It is very good—an excellent opening to a novel. I loved how this is also paired with the imagery of the end.
The interwoven lives of Daniel and Julián are done well. The way their stories fade in and fade out has a seamless film-like quality. Their stories flow naturally as the novel progresses. Yet even though their stories are central to this book, I feel that the supporting cast of characters are the ones who are really the main focus of this work and hold it together. Daniel and Julián are somewhat childlike in regards to their actions and how they control their emotions...both share that youthful, innocent all or none sentimentality. Because of this, there is a sense of protection that pervades this story...the other characters molding and shaping perceptions and events as they happen. The psychology behind this is interesting. It plays on the idea of excess of both love and hate.
Overall, Ruiz Zafón penned an excellent story and mystery. It was fun trying to match all of those little puzzle pieces, gradually watching how it all fit together. The end result was well done.