Praise for My Books

"Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising in Punjab's literary horizon. She has an excellent command of English and a sly sense of humour."
- Khushwant Singh on The Long Walk Home

"An enjoyable tale of a sassy girl's headlong race up the corporate ladder."
- India Today on Earning the Laundry Stripes

Monday, 28 February 2011

Truth is always hidden in fiction - uncover it in the noir of Carlos Ruiz Zafon!

I read Carlos Ruiz Zafon and I knew I wanted to see Barcelona. Author of The Shadow of The Wind - the most successful novel in Spanish publishing after Don Quixote - Zafon was born in Barcelona and the city is another character in his noir novels. A gothic organism, it shifts shape and form to yield narrow alleys and desolate mansions, stifling haze and blanketing fog even casting the residence of Gaudi - the Catalan architect whose Baroque buildings define the cityscape - as a set piece. 

Zafon is hailed as a worthy successor to Bram Stoker and if you haven't read him yet, go exploring your local library/bookstore for his books - The Angel's Game, and most recently, The Prince of Mist. I reviewed the former for South China Morning Post, and as you'll read, loved it! 

As a writer, Zafon is soubly entertaining with his wise and witty take on a writer's life. Witness: "The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction." 

A tragic romance, a gothic mystery, a rollercoaster ride through the sights, sounds and streets of Barca - what's not to love!

The Angel’s Game

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Weidenfeld & Nicholson
HK$ 204
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

The Angel’s Game is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s prequel to the immensely successful Shadow of the Wind, a novel that become a worldwide bestseller and was translated into more than 35 languages. It is set in 1920’s Barcelona, a turbulent time marked by dictatorship and the end of constitutional monarchy in Spain. The backdrop is thus appropriately arrayed for a noir thriller replete with mean characters, a tragic hero, a doomed love and quicksand circumstances. Keeping with the spirit of its predecessor, this book too features Barcelona as a character in the story, a gothic organism that shifts shape and form to yield narrow alleys and desolate mansions, stifling haze and blanketing fog. With his tongue firmly in cheek, Zafon even summons Antoni Gaudi, the Spanish Catalan architect famous for his baroque buildings, and casts his residence, “the garden of columns and towers looked more like a cursed paradise”, as a set piece.

The book opens with David Martin, a 17-year-old impoverished writer working at a languishing newspaper. Despite being brought up by an illiterate war veteran, since childhood David’s “only friends were made of paper and ink”, a passion in which he was ably assisted by the bookseller Sempere. Readers familiar with Shadow will smile at the reappearance of the delightful Sempere & Sons, a bookstore that along with the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, played a stellar role in the first novel. David’s favourite book is a Christmas gift from Sempere, Great Expectations, and Dickens’ novel runs as a leitmotif through The Angel’s Game. Much like Pip, David has a rich benefactor in Pedro Vidal, star writer and scion of a wealthy Barcelona family; David’s Estella is the glacial Christina, alternately aloof and approachable; and the character of Victorian London is parlayed by Baroque Barcelona. 

When David gets commissioned to write penny dreadfuls, he proceeds to do so under a pseudonym. His tales of Barcelona’s underbelly garner him a steady readership, an abandoned mansion for residence, and the attentions of a mysterious publisher Andreas Corelli. The reclusive Corelli wants David to write a book unlike any other, a book with the power to change hearts and minds, and offers a fortune in return. As David begins the work macabre incidents start to rip through his life: the death of his ex-publishers by fire, a police patrol hotfooting on his heels, the discovery of sinister murders of yore in his labyrinthine mansion, and Christina’s descent into madness. Grappling with the bizarre happenings David realizes he might just have struck a Faustian bargain. 

The Angel’s Game pulses with Zafon’s trademark wit as, armed with the knowledge of an insider, he takes swipes at a writer’s life and the publisher’s trade. More reverentially, it unpicks the role of books in our lives, the consuming passion a writer pours into his work and the magical hold a good book can exercise on our soul. It is reputed to be the fastest-selling Spanish novel and, unless you are seriously opposed to the idea of roller coaster rides, what is there not to like?

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