Carlos Ruiz Zafon has been one of my favorite authors since I picked up The Shadow of the Wind all those years ago. Partially because of his beautiful descriptions of gothic Barcelona but also his well developed characters, sharp edged plot developments and lovely writing.
Of course my absolute favorite part, the crowning glory, the one piece that holds it all together, is his Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Much like all book nerds have wished to climb into their wardrobes and find Narnia, we also want to be initiated into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The Cemetery is a secret treasure trove of forgotten books, spiraling along cobblestone paths, domed rooms and twisted tunnels. These books are waiting to be rescued, to be remembered. When you visit, you find the book that speaks to you and you bring it back out into the world.
As with The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven revolves around a group of characters and literature, some of which we know from the previous books and some we don’t. It all begins at the Sempre & Sons bookshop.
It is Christmas time in Barcelona of 1957. The dark streets are filled with cold gusts, shadows and twinkling lights. Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have had a baby, Julian. Their friend Fermín Romero de Torres is in love and about to marry the woman he is meant to be with. Everything seems to be going well, even the bookshop has found a way to attract customers again. Then one day a stranger hobbles into the silent sanctuary of the bookshop and upends all their lives. He threatens to divulge a secret long buried. This man plunges all of them into bouts of suspicion, jealousy, hatred, love and fear by turn. They struggle to hold onto their lives while uncovering truths, darker than they ever imagined, about each other.
I love Zafon’s characters because they are so wonderfully complex. They are as much dark as they are light, as much good as evil. They are so human. Though they are capable of love and reason, they are also capable of being blinded by hatred and revenge.
To those who haven’t read his books, be warned. This is no fairy tale. There is no happily ever after. Nor would I wish such dull perfection upon his characters. As always, Zafon delivers an ending as twisted and dramatic as one could hope. And as always, I cannot wait for the next book.