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Book Review: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I was really sad to read about the death of Carlos Ruiz Zafon at the age of 55. Sad about the loss of a huge talent and great author. Sad there’d be no more journey’s to the cemetery of forgotten books, no more trips to Sempere and sons.

I’d come to his work relatively late, like millions of others before me, I devoured Shadow of the Wind a couple of years ago. I’d had a copy for years, given to me as a gift. I’d forgotten I had it until came to moving-out of my student house in Leeds in 2007 and I found it in my wardrobe. It’d move with me twice more and stay on the bookshelf for a few more years before I’d pick it up. I suppose you could say it languished in my own cemetery of forgotten books.

I was immediately drawn into the world Zafon had created, cared about the characters and was struck by his love of books.

This weekend, with the relentless, torrential rain, I curled up on the sofa and went back to the cemetery of forgotten books by revisiting The Angel’s Game – the prequal to Shadow of the wind.

It’s the story of young author Daniel Martin, he makes a living writing sensationalist mystery stories about Barcelona’s underworld. As a child he loses himself in books thanks to a meeting with Senor Sempere, a friendship that shapes his life and encourages his love of literature.

David’s joined by Pedro Vidal, his patron, Cristina, the daughter of Vidal’s chauffeur, and Isabella, a young admirer of David and his work.

When he moves to the mysterious Tower House, he receives a letter from a French publisher, Andreas Corelli, who makes him an offer too good to refuse; write a book unlike anything else, an attempt at a new religious work that will change hearts and minds. As he gets to work it soon becomes clear that there’s a connection between his book and the murky past that surrounds his home.

I’m not going to give anything away in this review. 

It may be seen by some as a sillier than TSOTW, but I love it, I love the backstory of the Sempere family and love every twist and turn – there are lots.

For me, it has everything, undying love, magic, mystery, the importance of books and 1920/30s Barcelona

I love the image Zafon paints of the city, I can imagine the lights stretching out before David as he writes from the Tower House, ‘listening to the stories the city is feeding him’. 

I like how flawed David is, he’s cynical, moody, sarcastic, – he could actually be me. I enjoy his friendship with Isabella, who always gave as good as she got. And it is tinged with heartbreak, tragedy and lost love:

“Do you know the best thing about broken hearts? They can only really break once, the rest is just scratches.”  Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I’d like to thank Zafon for creating the cemetery of forgotten books, the hidden maze in Barcelona, the idea of it to me is beautiful:

“This place is a mystery. A sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands, a new spirit……” Carlos Ruiz Zafon

In an interview with The Independent in 2012, he talked about where it came from , what it meant to him; “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a metaphor, not just for books but for ideas, for language, for knowledge, for beauty, for all the things that make us human, for collecting memory.” 

I could sit here listing quotes all day, how he writes about books and literature….

“In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”  Carlos Ruiz Zafon

….is what stays with me after I finish reading, here was a man who could tell a brilliant story and remind us how important stories are. If you haven’t read any of the series (there are four books in total) then I can’t recommend them highly enough, it’s a trip to another world, it’s eerie, magical and enthralling.

We have lost a talent, we’ve lost a champion of books but through his novels Zafon lives on, I think this quote sums that perfectly:

“I had always felt that the pages I left behind were a part of me. Normal people bring children into the world; we novelists bring books. We are condemned to put our whole lives into them, even though they hardly ever thank us for it. We are condemned to die in their pages and sometimes even to let our books be the ones who, in the end, will take our lives.” Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Rest easy x

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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