As you may remember, this year I have embarked on a Treasure Hunt Reading Challenge from the blog Doing it the Open Way. There is a list of “clues” and the idea is to read a book with a title that fits each clue. I posted about the first two books I read for the challenge here (Girl with a Pearl Earring for the gemstone clue; and The Tiger’s Wife for the zoo animal clue). I have now read two more books towards the challenge. First up, for the clue “weather” I read
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
For me, there are two categories of great novels. The first type are the ones where you race through because you can’t wait to find out what happens next; the second you want to read slowly because you want to savour every line, every sentence, every word. The Shadow of the Wind was the second sort. This is a beautifully written (translated) novel. There is humour and poetry and sadness. It has some of the most exquisitely drawn characters in any book I have ever read. And the story itself is intriguing and entertaining. It has mystery; it has love; it has gothic horror; it has dark humour. This is just a fabulous, fabulous book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The second book is for the clue “a feeling”, for which I read
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.
On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.
The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.
I am not sure how I felt about this book. I found it easy to read and zipped through it in no time. I thought it was very original but also very, very strange! Maybe because it mixed the mundane with the magical so seamlessly, I don’t know. At times it was sad; at times it was funny; at other times it was just peculiar. I do think it’s worth a read and I would be intrigued to know what you think of it if you do. I’m still shaking my head when I think of it 😉