In much of my reading, I have tended to drift to more realistic, journalism-style writing in recent years. As a result, when I sit down to read a lush, skillful writer like Carlos Ruiz Zafon his prose hits me like great gin.
The Prisoner of Heaven, Zafon’s newest novel, brings us back to the Barcelona of Daniel Sempere, the hero of The Shadow of the Wind. Following The Angel’s Game, this is the penultimate novel in his proposed series of Barcelona novels. We return to Daniel as he delves into the mystery of his friend Fermin’s past; a shadowy, dangerous world that draws together more closely the two previous novels, and set the table beautifully for the final entry in this series.
What impressed me most is the way Zafon continues to draw us into the beauty of his vision of Barcelona; a corrupt, dangerous, sensual, warm, frightening city that’s been drawn with an elegance and love normally lavished on fantasy or science fiction worlds. That this creation is fleshed out with the tragic history of Spain gives more emotional power to his work. This, combined with the dawning realization as I read that the pieces are largely in place and we are moving into the series’ endgame, had me struggling between devouring this in one sitting and slowly digesting it over several days. I managed to tease it out a little, but my willpower didn’t last long. In my defense, though, this is the shortest of the three novels.
I also give enormous credit to Lucia Graves. Reading this in English rather than the original Spanish, I don’t remember any portion of this feeling stiff and forced, the way some translations do. She has done a beautiful job, once again preserving the elegance and poetry of his writing.
For those who haven’t read Zafon, I’d strongly recommend starting with the other two books. Not that you need the back story to understand what’s going on, but more to preserve the beautiful tension around the fate of the characters. If you have read him before, you won’t be disappointed. A few posts earlier I wrote about my eagerness to read this, and The Prisoner of Heaven has fulfilled all of my expectations.