The atrocities of war simmer deep within the men and women that experience the worst human life has to offer. Often the memories lay dormant for years before they are brought to the surface to face the light of day.
In The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, we are taken into the world of Barcelona in the 1950s. We are introduced to Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea.
Their family book store is famous and Daniel is becoming a part of its growing reputation. As he watches the store for his father, he is surprised by a stranger, one who is intent on buying one of their most precious treasures. When he makes notations in the book, then returns it to Daniel to pass on to a friend, he is dismayed. Although the book had been purchased before being defaced, what does his good friend have to do this this dark and mysterious stranger?
With his curiosity at full throttle he approaches his friend Fermin Romero de Torres. Soon to be married, Fermin is horrified. Somehow his past is catching up with him, and secrets that he thought long buried threaten to come bubbling forward into his current life.
This is a past that takes him back to the early 1940s. Sharing this past with his friend Daniel, he relives the horror from his earlier years.
How can he cope, will the knowledge he is sharing create even further chaos, or can they band together to stop the dark secrets from tumbling into the open, threatening his very existence?
Zafon has written a deep and mysterious novel full of people that feel real. His characterization is spot on – humor is only one of the ways that he draws us to the characters. The darkness he reveals feels real and yet surreal as only the unimaginable can be. The women who are introduced as the story moves on create a foil that only makes the atrocities seem more horrifying.
The story is fraught with pain and turmoil, but threaded with hope and belief. The emotion is well written and the mystery continues to deepen, enthralling the reader with the danger and darkness capable of being inflicted in the name of new leaders. As the new regime of that place and era entrench themselves, many of those willing to question the status are crushed in the cruel systems.
If you enjoy historical fiction full of danger and intrigue, you will find this a fascinating read. The humor and dialogue draw you in, the story of a time in history will have fascinated and horrified at the same time. This would be a great book for a book club, or reading group. There are layers and subterfuge that must be cleared to see the picture, a picture of pain and depravity, but one of hope and healing as well.
This is an enthralling read and a must-have for your library. Zafon focusses on the emotion of the reader and doesn’t let go.