I could tell by the “other recommendations” list on GoodReads that I was going to like this book. I already had it on my shelf, then it was picked for my book club. Post-war Barcelona, a boy chooses a tome from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books that turns out to be a ridiculously rare novel by a local author that died mysteriously a decade before. He won’t sell the book, which is good because some dude is trying to burn every last copy.
Boy loves book. Boy obsesses over author and lots of other stuff. Mysteries to be solved, secrets to be kept (or not). It has the coming-of-age thing, including several illustrations of the ways that we judge people. And there is a theme surrounding the idea that we as readers take from books what we bring to them.
The language is lovely, an even greater feat since this is a translation.
My only beef is the mysteries aren’t that mysterious. The first bombshell was a laughable cliché, so I don’t even feel guilty is spoiling it: Julian’s one true love, Penelope, was also his half-sister. And that is why even the people that weren’t totally insane kept them apart without explaining why.
You know when the solve is so easy that you hope it is a decoy? Yeah. This was, in my opinion, an unnecessary plot twist. The fact that (SPOILERS) Penelope’s old man locked her in a bedroom and wouldn’t let her out because she was pregnant needs no further drama, or even explanation in that time and place.
The other mystery, the identity of the mysterious disfigured man in black, was also easily guessed. But it added something to the plot and the story of how he became a mysterious disfigured man in black is pretty interesting.
The baddie seemed in the beginning a bit too much like Inspector Javert to be taken seriously. The difference, though, was that Javert seemed to believe in his heart that he was doing right by God and Country or whatever. Fumero really seems insane, driven by jealousy and a desire for revenge. He becomes increasingly frightening, which makes for a better story.
I imagine I will be reading everything else this guy has written.