The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (Book #3 of 4)
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Translated Edition Published: 2012 by Weidenfield & Nicholson, Orion Books (UK) & by Harper (US)
The Prisoner of Heaven was another captivating entry in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books that provided a more balanced tone of light and dark.
“Destiny doesn’t do home visits… you have to go for it yourself.”
The third book of the series felt almost like an interlude between the wider narrative, especially because of its much shorter length. Fans of the marvellous Fermìn Romero de Torres will rejoice to know that The Prisoner of Heaven provided his much-needed backstory. It would find it hard to believe that any reader who loved The Shadow of the Wind would not consider Fermìn as a favourite character. In the shadows and ashes of the city of the damned, Fermìn glows and shines like a beacon of hope and goodness. A wholly good and kind-hearted person who has a weakness for ladies and strong opinions on pretty much everything, his eloquent and really long ramblings are always sardonic, hilarious and pretty spot on.
“Deep down we’ve never been who we think we once were, and we only remember what never happened.”
However, the title of the book does not refer to Fermìn at all, but to someone else whom he met in the prison of Montjuic Castle during the Spanish Civil War. Arising from this backstory of Fermìn, narrative threads that connect the stories and characters within the series was revealed.. The scenes which took place in the prison was really horrifying, and out of this account there rose a villainous figure of such despicable character as to challenge the monstrous Inspector Fumero from the first book.
“Those times, against all expectations, were turning out to be good times. Then he felt afraid, because he knew they couldn’t last long and those stolen drops of happiness and peace would evaporate.”
As I’ve mentioned above, this book has a more balanced tone. Despite the harrowing accounts of Fermìn’s life in prison, the current timeline of the story was blessed with happier, lighthearted moments that helped to break the heavy-hearted narrative. While this book felt a bit too short to deliver the same level of emotional tension and impact as the previous volumes, it nevertheless managed to still resonate with me because of the continuity of the character development. And of course, the writing and its translation remained as beautiful as ever.
“In those days, Christmas still retained a certain aura of magic and mystery. The powdery light of winter, the hopeful expressions of people who lived among shadows and silence, lent that setting a slight air of promise in which at least children and those who had learned the art of forgetting could still believe.”
The closing scene in the Epilogue of The Prisoner of Heaven builds up the anticipation for the final volume of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books to dizzying heights. I could feel it in my bones that it is going to be an incredible and memorable one, and as I cannot wait to finish this series, I also dread to arrive at its end. Such is the price of reading truly special books.