Having seen this available for £1 at a Lancaster book stall (quick plug for Lancaster – they have markets every Saturday and one mid-week day and there are two second-hand book stalls – one sells collectors’ second-hand stuff but the other is pretty much a recycling stand for popular paperbacks, lots of chick lit but I have picked up quite a few good things there), I had to pick it up after everything that I’ve heard about it over the years.
The writing itself is excellent – “flashing a mysterious smile probably borrowed from the pages of one of his worn Alexandre Dumas romances” is one of my favourite phrases of the book. Zafón distinguishes well between the voices of different characters (which, given the number of flashbacks and retellings of events by other characters, is pretty important) and while the characters are all very individual, none of them is ridiculous.
Similarly, I loved the fact that I could follow the places in the book – I’ve been to Barcelona (only once, and only for a week), but fortunately the book was mostly set in the centre of town and out towards the area where I stayed when I was there, so I recognised many of the place names and the character of the city, which Zafón represents very well.
I struggled with the plot – the sheer number of childhood romances and implausible pregnancies bugged me, as did the jumpy timeline. The book is full of adventure and intrigue and all those wonderful plot ingredients, which I can see appealing to both male and female readers of all ages. I can certainly understand why this is a favourite with readers the world over, and I enjoyed the book, but it’s not right up there in the “I’m going to bully everyone I know into reading this” category.
Reviews from other bloggers: Me And My Big Mouth (review of sorts…)