I was inspired to pick up this book after a lunch date this spring. I’d heard about it and the cover certainly interested me – but I’d never actually picked it up. Something seemed a little too “Spanish melodrama” for me. However, I was immediately sold on NEEDING to read this book when this girl uttered the following phrase: “It begins in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books…”
The idea sparked to life in my head and I knew I had to get to this book – and soon. I am one for great libraries and collections of books and this idea of a repository of books long-forgotten (some of which only having one single copy – this copy, in the Cemetery – remaining in the world) just ignited my fancy. I thought of the Drum at the Boston Athenaeum only bigger, older, and even more exciting. And the rule that, upon your first visit, you must take a book and guard it for the rest of your life – now THAT is awesome.
So clearly, I got into this book pretty fast. I have to say, I felt very connected to Daniel, the main character. He reminded me of, well, me. I saw myself in a lot of the things he did and in the way his life played out. His relationship with Bea – especially his sudden realization of his feelings AND his taking her to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books on their first date – also reminded me of… well, you probably know what I’m talking about. Back to the book itself.
Zafón’s writing is beautiful. Its different from Steig Larsson’s writing but accomplishes the same magnetism – you cannot help but read their books. The way they string words together is – at its best – rapturous. Even at its worst, its better than most other authors could dream. I was sucked into this book through the sheer beauty of the prose… but that same prose is actually what almost lost me near the end. See, the melodrama that I’d been wary of nearly capsizes the book as the end approaches. Things begin to collapse under their own weight around 150 pages out (from the end) and only in “Dramatis Personae” section near the end does it manage to right itself. The plot becomes a bit predictable, a bit overblown, and the characters suddenly seem like they’re caught up in, well, a melodrama. It doesn’t suit them and it doesn’t suit the action that has come before. It was a huge buzz-kill and during the section that comprises Nuria’s manuscript… well, I was beginning to lose patience. I was frustrated and restless with the book – and it happened very suddenly. I don’t know if its that I wanted something else, plot-wise, or if I wanted to get back to the main characters or what – but I didn’t want what I got, I know that much.
Still, that momentary loss of my investment was too much to ignore. I wanted – and planned – to give this book a 5 and even thought it might achieve 5+… but it overreaches and becomes a bit unwieldy by the end. Rating: 4.5 out of 5. This is a beautiful book and it has some unbelievably great quotes. The action, surrounding what it means to be a reader, is heartwarming and delightful to me. Sadly, the melodrama of the last quarter of the book just ripped me out of it and as a result, I found myself already moving forward to my next potential (literary) conquest – the last book of my Cannonball Read II Challenge.