Since I’d seen Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Prisoner of Heaven mentioned on several blogs over the last year or so, I figured it was a novel worth reading when I came across a copy in the international authors section of my public library. After grabbing a few additional works of international fiction and later, after navigating the automated check-out machines, I still asked myself if I’d made the right call by grabbing Zafon’s 2012 novel. The next day, when I began reading it I soon had my answer. After reading just a few pages I quickly fell in love with The Prisoner of Heaven. This is a wonderful piece of fiction.
Written as the third installment of a trilogy comprising The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game, one can still read and enjoy The Prisoner of Heaven without having read the other books in the series. (According to the author’s introduction, this was Zafon’s intent.) The novel begins in Barcelona, Spain in 1957 when a mysterious and disfigured stranger enters the sleepy Sempere family bookstore. His purchase of a valuable edition of The Count of Monte Cristo serves as a catalyst in bringing to light secrets that have remained hidden for decades. The action is quick, the dialog crisp and the characters complex and at times even mysterious. When a novel combines a bookstore full of old books, life during Franco’s oppressive rule, a body and soul crushing prison filled with political prisoners and people’s thirst for revenge, what’s not to like?
I’m happy to recommend this novel to anyone. I’m also happy to report that The Prisoner of Heaven helps fulfill a number of reading challenges: the Everything Espana Reading Challenge, European Reading Challenge, Books in Translation Reading Challenge, Global Reading Challenge and I Love Library Books Reading Challenge. Since I enjoy reading challenges as much as I do an excellent novel, that somewhat serendipitous bit of good fortune made me very happy.