Doubleday Hardcover, 2009
You know, I sometimes wonder about people. Unless a book's denouement is beautifully gift wrapped with a neatly tied bow and a cherry on top, readers complain about it. At least that is the case on Amazon.com, where many reviewers are confused, disappointed, and frustrated by The Angel’s Game ending.
Never mind that on the same product page Zafón says,
"The Angel’s Game has many games inside, one of them with the reader. It is a book designed to make you step into the storytelling process and become a part of it."For me, I loved this entire book, including its ambiguous ending. The Angel’s Game is simply marvelous, a throwback to the “true” classics that require a reader to think. Zafón refers to one game with the reader; I believe the game is the book as a whole.
That said, attempting to recap the story in a paragraph or two is difficult.
Barcelona, the 1920s. David Martín, a talented writer, is the protagonist. Or is he? While writing a successful series of penny dreadfuls at breakneck speed for two penny-pinching men who publish them, Martín finds out he has a fatal brain tumor. Or is it? Enter Andreas Corelli, a publisher from Paris and an admirer of David’s writing. Corelli makes David an offer that is difficult to refuse: 100,000 francs, a fortune, in return for writing a book that will change the hearts and minds of its readers. When David refuses on the grounds of his short life span and his publishing contract, Corelli tells him not to worry. Martín stays the night at Corelli's, dreams of an operation, and when he wakes the tumor is gone. Or is it? Shortly thereafter, his publishers die when their office is set afire, thus voiding the contract. It is obvious (is it?) that Corelli is responsible for the cure and the fire—he must be some sort of supernatural creature and our antagonist. Or is he?
I must ask these questions because everything that occurs in this book is set in quicksand. David Martín is a man obsessed. Obsessed with the previous owner of his stone fortress home. With unrequited and tragic love. With freshly murdered bodies and he the suspect. With Corelli and Corelli's book. David is a man teetering on the edge of sanity and I, as part of the storytelling process, am standing right beside him.
I can prove it. From page 404 of The Angel's Game:
"I recalled how the old bookseller had always told me that books have a soul, the soul of the person who wrote them and of those who read them and dream about them."