“A story has no beginning and no end, only points of entry.”

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series

Excerpt From

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón


I just finished re-reading The Labyrinth of the Spirits, the last volume in the series The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. If you haven’t read this series, there are a few reasons why I think you should.

The series revolves around the fates of a trio of gothic novelists in Barcelona, and their collective effect on an extended family of booksellers, at the time of the Spanish Civil War and the resulting Franco regime. If you’ve read some of the titles I’ve recommended in the past, you know that I’m something of a sucker for gothic novels. One day I intend to write one.

The atmosphere of Barcelona during this time period makes a perfect environment for these novels. The Barcelona Modernisme architectural movement created some fantastical buildings which are still there today, even if the darkness and paralysis of the Franco years are long past, and many of those buildings are inexplicably creepy. Zafón uses them to great effect in the plotting of his stories. La Sagrada Familia aside, I’ve always thought there was something slightly sinister about Gaudí’s designs, so maybe it was easy for me to tune into Zafón’s frequency.

El Pinar, a Barcelona Modernisme gothic-styled home
Something evil is brewing at El Pinar

In addition to revealing a dark mystery, the books also relate the lives of fairly ordinary people under a fascist government. It is all too credible. Perhaps we have forgotten those dark days of the twentieth century. Perhaps we shouldn’t.

Zafón’s writing occasionally  approaches the transcendent, with phrases that made me read them over and over, savouring their imagery and lyricism. Best of all, Zafón lets us inside his characters’ heads, because what is happening to them may be merely a product of their perception… but maybe it isn’t.

They may be dark, but these books are also witty. Relationships are seasoned with a generous amount of affectionate piss-taking between characters. And being about novelists, they are full of wry aphorisms about writing and writers (particularly novelists). Probably because I am a novelist, the bits that particularly resonate with me are about the ephemeral quality of ideas: that books have a life and a soul, and they will die when no one reads them any longer. These books end up in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books until someone discovers them once more and breathes life into them again.

I don’t think Zafón’s books are in any danger of dying any time soon. But read them anyway. They’re terrific.


The Cemetery of Forgotten Books:

The Shadow of the Wind

The Angel’s Game

The Prisoner of Heaven

 The Labyrinth of the Spirits



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