Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 1, 2012

The Prisoner of Heaven (2011), by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, translated by Lucia Graves

The Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is third in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, which begins with the hugely successful The Shadow of the Wind, and I’m sure it will be walking off the shelves in no time.  It’s a terrific book, with an intriguing storyline, gothic atmospherics and a fine cast of characters.

It is 1957 and Daniel Sampere is now married to the lovely Bea, and has a young son called Julian.  After a visit from a sinister customer Daniel learns some interesting facts about his family’s past, but his desire for revenge has to be tempered by his family responsibilities.  The regime is as implacable as ever, and the corrupt have as much untrammelled power as ever.  Which issues are to be resolved, and which must be accepted in the interests of personal safety are philosophical issues which trouble many societies around the world…

Emblematic of the dark secrets that remain unspoken in parts of Spain even to this day, The Prisoner of Heaven is set in the family bookshop because books and writing are  always a threat to repressive regimes.  The Sampere’s bookshop has not been doing well – but an experiment with modern marketing changes everything and the extra money makes it possible not only to pay the electricity bill but also to fund the creation of a whole new identity for Daniel’s troubled friend Fermin.  Like many in Spain and elsewhere in postwar Europe he has an identity not entirely his own, and that, in increasingly bureaucratic Barcelona, is problematic for a forthcoming wedding.

Barcelona, as before, broods behind the scenes.  Zafon’s Barcelona is not the stylish, sunny city of today, it is the Barcelona of Franco and his cronies.  The streets and buildings are murky with secrets, but Julian of the new, innocent generation offers the promise of light hearts and sunshine.

The translation is excellent, and is particularly good at capturing the ironic humour of the characters.

Most enjoyable holiday reading!

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Title: The Prisoner of Heaven
Translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves
Publisher: Text Publishing 2012
ISBN: 9781921922879
Review copy courtesy of Text

Fishpond: The Prisoner of Heaven
or direct from Text


  1. You had me at ‘set in the family bookshop’.


    • I had my Bookish Moment yesterday, Karenlee – we found a bookshop here in St Petersburg, and I had a lovely browse-around. Most of what they had in English seemed to be the sort of book their university students might read when they were learning English – mostly the classics, but there was also some popular fiction and a couple of translations of contemporary Russan literature as well. But without a recommendation from Stu of Winston’s Dad, I didn’t feel game to buy any of those. Just as well I have the Kindle because I have only one of the books I brought with me left to finish now…


  2. Gladyou enjoyed it Lisa. It’s probably great for a holiday read. I’ve only read the first which I enjoyed … Haven’t felt driven to read the others but would probably enjoy them in the right circumstances!


    • Hi Sue, actually I enjoyed this one more than the first – it seems more cleanly plotted to me. And of course, since between reading No 1 and this one I have actually been to Barcelona – and read Robert Hughes’ masterly history of it) this one resonated more strongly.
      I am starting to think that the Australian government should fund all its arts students on a Grand Tour, to complete their education LOL!


      • Sounds good … Write to Julia and I’ll support you!


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