Angels in Barcelona?

Some writers try to invent something completely new and original with each story they pen: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Others use what they know and build on it. In the worst case scenario, this can appear merely derivative with the literary inspirations only too obvious; but in the best examples of this kind of writing, an author can take his literary inspirations and move into a whole new weird and wonderful realm with them, such is the case with Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The angel's game. Its inspirations are obvious: Great Expectations, Faust, The woman in white and a hint of Hitchcock; but Zafon melds these disparate elements into a whole new fantastical tale.

Set in the Barcelona of the 1920s, Daniel Martin is a writer churning out grand-guignol potboilers, but is desperate to find his own artistic voice. His chance comes when he meets an enigmatic publisher, who promises him a huge sum of money in return for concocting a new religion. Martin thinks the publisher is nuts, but with the offer of big money, and a chance to finally be able to write what he wants, Martin accepts the offer. But he then realises that he's not the first author to travel down this path....

Zafon conjures up a wonderfully believable incredible story very much in the style of Dickens, with a cast of sympathetic good guys, and some fabulous grotesques. Barcelona is brought to life as brilliantly as Dickens painted the streets of Victorian London. The city is a living element within the story. Of course the story is not realistic in the sense, that say, a crime story might be, but there is nevertheless an integrity and reality about it. It's stunningly readable, just the thing to read when you want to be completely immersed in a book. Part fable, part fantastical tale, with elements of romance, grand-guignol, magic realism, and adventure thrown in for good measure, this is an absorbing roller-coaster of a story.


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