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
Review copy courtesy of Text