Hug A Friend Today!

So I heard that today is National Hugging Day. I’m not lying; there’s proof to be found if you search it on Google. In fact, National Hugging Day even has an official website and a Wikipedia page. It can’t be false now then, can it?

But what has hugging to do with books, aside from the literal image of nerds hugging books close to their chests when they scurry from one room to another? Indeed, this was a question I puzzled over for a while. Most books that come close to hugging tend to be about romance, but I’m sure hugging a romantic partner is totally different from hugging a stranger, which is something the National Hugging Day advocates. But stories of hugging strangers are understandably few and far between, and I don’t remember any offhand to talk about, in fact. However, all this thinking has gotten me recalling a book that had a rather touching element of bromance, and that is a book I’ve mentioned before, known as The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The Shadow of the Wind, originally written in Spanish entitled La Sombra del Viento, is not about bromance. Or at least, friendship is not the main theme, though it forms a very strong sub-theme. The Shadow of the Wind is about a boy in Barcelona who receives a book from a  book cemetery, which is a place to store old books. The book is called The Shadow of the Wind (inorite, a book within a book) and he loves the book and seeks to find its author. He discovers, however, that the book he is holding is the only copy of any of the author’s books remaining. Someone has mysteriously gone around burning every other copy of the author’s books.

The book, I suppose, appeals to lovers of literature, not just because it talks about books, but because it is so poetic and so beautiful. Every character feels lovingly woven into the tale, such that we cannot help but loving all of them and bemoaning their unfortunate fate. The part about friendship touches me especially, because the man in question was so selfless towards his friend we wish more people like him exist in this world.

I think it may be because this book is so foreign that it feels otherworldly, almost fantastical even though it is set in the modern day. The writing style has a distinct European flavour to it, which is retained even in an English translation. After reading it, I really felt that I had read something artistic, and also felt a deep urge to hug someone. By the way, this book was part of the Read! Singapore selections in 2007, the other being The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I must say even though The Alchemist is far more popular, I enjoyed it a lot less. The Alchemist is marketed as being a children’s book, and I can feel the book treating me like a kid. I dislike being underestimated by a book. But I must say The Shadow of the Wind was the best book ever recommended by Read! Singapore. Subsequent choices were… not very great in my opinion.

Anyway, The Shadow of the Wind apparently has a prequel called The Angel’s Game. I have not read that one, and I’m not sure if I intend to since The Shadow of the Wind was complete on its own. But yes, if you want to read about friendship, romance (and there is quite a bit of that in there too) and a coming-of-age kind of story about people who really love literature, take a look at this book today.

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