The Angel’s Game
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A few years ago a friend recommended a book by an author who up until then I had never heard of. The title of the book was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. What a book, what an author! A sentence from a New York Times review said it all for me:
Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges…Ruiz Zafón gives us a panoply of alluring and savage personages and stories…I couldn’t have put it better myself!
There is absolutely no doubt Zafón is a book lover; only a lover of books could write with such intrigue around a ghostly, hidden “cemetery of forgotten books”! Dark mists swirl in and out of every page, and this master story teller sets your imagination afire!
During my hauntings of book fairs and second hand book stores, I discovered The Angel’s Game, not realising at the time it was part of Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books trilogy. I have just finished reading it and once again I was lost in Zafón’s world of the most beautiful prose, passionate love, corrupt police, unsolved murders, hapless humans possessed by what? Satan? Was Senor Sempere, of Sempere & Sons book store, right when he declared that authors’ souls are in the books that they write? Is that why he valued David Martin’s book so much that he kept it in a locked glass case? I do think Zafón’s soul combines with the reader’s soul to create an alchemy that drags you into the story as though you were a bystander; perhaps just a little too close for comfort?
Zafón: I write because I really have no other choice. This is what I do. This is what I am…Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.
Like The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game is set in Barcelona ‘the city of the damned’. And like every major city in the world, Barcelona has its dark and dangerous side. This is a book with an atmosphere of evil versus innocence in which mostly evil seems to be winning. Yes, Senor Zafón I do believe the angels are treating human life as a game!
David Martin is an author who rents an abandoned towered mansion in the heart of Barcelona. The history of the previous owner is becoming an obsession and David is certain that a storage room in the house is ‘occupied’ with something sinister. He has no idea who owns the boxes of clothes and objects in the room, preferring to keep the door locked! At the same time he is battling with his love for an unattainable young woman whom he has known since childhood.
A paragraph from The Angel’s Game gives an insight into author David’s despair at the realization that all of his life’s dreams have been shattered:
Two hours later sitting in the armchair of my study, I opened the case that had come to me years before and contained the only thing I had left of my father. I pulled out the revolver, which was wrapped in a cloth, and opened the chamber. I inserted six bullets and closed the weapon. I placed the barrel against my temple, drew back the hammer and shut my eyes. At that moment I felt a gust of wind whip against the tower and the study windows burst open, hitting the wall with great force. An icy breeze touched my face, bringing with it the lost breath of great expectations.
If David had known what was to come, surely he wouldn’t have allowed a mere icy breeze to put him off the task at hand!
I wondered, after reading this amazing book, that maybe there are times in our lives when we have no option but to sell our souls to the devil…what do you think?
-Anne Frandi-Coory 25 April 2016