Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book 67: The Angel's Game

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I absolutely loved Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, and was anxiously waiting for this novel to be released in paperback. Chronologically, it can be seen as a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind but neither novel requires that the reader be familiar with the other one or even read them in the certain order. The main connection between the two is the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and the Sempere family and their bookstore make an appearance (however, since this takes place in the 1920s and '30s, Daniel is, of course, not in it).

While The Shadow of the Wind had its dark moments, my vague memories of it still remember it as having a "happy" ending of sorts. This novel is much darker, and ends with despair. This has very much to do with the narrator - if The Shadow of the Wind is about a young boy/man that becomes interested in a man's tragic story, this novel is narrated by a man experiencing a tragic love story. It makes for a very different view being on the outside looking in vs. being the one actually dealing with the heartbreak and drama.

The main character and narrator, David, grew up poor but while working at a newspaper, first as an errand boy, he finds a mentor and friend in the rich Vidal, who helps him gain his foot in the door to write stories. Soon, David has a book contract for trashy, pulp fiction novels and though it isn't quite what he wants to be doing, he enjoys it enough, even if the woman he loves disapproves. He is able to buy a house that has long fascinated him, and lives there for years before finally becoming more interested in its history.

As a young boy, he also forged a relationship with a local bookseller, Sempere, and eventually visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, picking up an unfinished book that appears to be some type of book of the dead. Eventually, he notes a connection between this book and his house, and finds that there are some very odd occurences that cannot be entirely coincidental.

At some point, it starts becoming difficult to tell who and what to trust - are there supernatural forces at stake or is the narrator lying to himself, and the readers? I have a tendency to want to believe the narrator, but especially in retrospect, it becomes harder to believe in him. Although I sided with him while I was reading it - those European and South American writers do tend to be more likely to use magic realism than us Americans, after all.

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