Sunday, February 25, 2018
Books

Review: Carlos Ruiz Zafon's 'Prisoner of Heaven' a tale within a tale set in late 1950s Spain

It's surprising to learn that Carlos Ruiz Zafon, of all people, uses a Kindle. In the world created by this internationally bestselling Spanish writer, book lovers are heroes and rare books the greatest treasures of all.

The Prisoner of Heaven is Zafon's third novel set around Sempere & Sons bookstore and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a fabled repository in Barcelona where people are allowed to choose one volume in their lifetime. Oh, you could digitize all those rare editions, but where's the drama in that?

Zafon claims you don't have to read his books in chronological order, but The Prisoner of Heaven would be a confusing place to start.

This slender novel provides some answers to what happened to David Martin, the writer who made a Faustian bargain in The Angel's Game (2009), and to the mother of Daniel, the young hero in The Shadow of the Wind (2004).

Each of the novels in this series revolves around a particular rare book. This time, a valuable copy of The Count of Monte Cristo gets pride of place. Several key plot points parallel Dumas' classic of wrongful imprisonment and revenge.

It's Christmas 1957, and customers are scarce at Sempere & Sons; bills are coming due. But then a man with a porcelain hand enters the store and buys the most expensive book, an edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. He inscribes it: "For Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future."

That "gaunt knight," Fermin Romero de Torres, becomes the hero of a tale within a tale. As he careens from one near-death adventure to the next, Fermin makes bravura pronouncements such as "Obstetrics, after free verse, is one of my hobbies," and "Destiny doesn't do home visits." When a character remarks that he must have a hard time in Franco's Spain, the former spy replies, "You have no idea. But I always tell myself that having direct access to serrano ham makes up for everything."

"Everything" in this case involves a stint in the impenetrable Montjuic Castle in the 1940s, presided over by the nefarious Mauricio Valls. Before the Spanish Civil War, he "penned bad translations of Greek and Latin classics and, with the help of a couple of kindred souls, edited a cultural pamphlet with high pretensions and low circulation."

Full of stylish writing, Gothic atmosphere and love letters to 19th century novels, The Prisoner of Heaven ends with one villain still at large, so fans should get at least one more trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

Comments
Author Allison Winn Scotch gives a nod to Steven King

Author Allison Winn Scotch gives a nod to Steven King

NightstandAllison Winn ScotchScotch, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of several novels. Her newest, Between Me and You, set in Los Angeles, is the story of Ben and Tatum, a couple whose marriage is unraveling, due perhaps ...
Published: 02/23/18

Events: Imbolo Mbue to discuss, sign Oprah pick ‘Behold the Dreamers’ at Largo library

Book TalkBlake High School student and author Sarah Frank (One Chance) will appear at a book launch for her novel for young readers at 4 p.m. Feb. 25 at Inkwood Books, 1809 N Tampa St., Tampa.Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker (Beyond the Sunshin...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: John Dufresne gives an entertaining short course in ‘Flash! Writing the Very Short Story’

Review: John Dufresne gives an entertaining short course in ‘Flash! Writing the Very Short Story’

Don’t tell John Dufresne you don’t have time to read.In fact, don’t tell him you don’t have time to write. Instead, spend a little time with his new book, Flash! Writing the Very Short Story. You’ll find a treasure trove of stories you can read in th...
Published: 02/22/18
Amy Hill Hearth’s ‘Streetcar to Justice’ brings back a forgotten story of black history

Amy Hill Hearth’s ‘Streetcar to Justice’ brings back a forgotten story of black history

During Black History Month, many students learn about Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white passenger — and rode into history.A century before that, another black woman mad...
Published: 02/20/18
Notable: Five new books for young readers for Black History Month

Notable: Five new books for young readers for Black History Month

NotableBlack History MonthHere are five more newly published books for young readers, for Black History Month or any time.Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin (Scholastic Press, ages 12 and up) by James L. Swanson, w...
Published: 02/20/18
‘Hello, Universe’ and ‘Wolf in the Snow’ top American Library Association awards for books for young readers

‘Hello, Universe’ and ‘Wolf in the Snow’ top American Library Association awards for books for young readers

The American Library Association announced its 2018 Youth Media Award winners Monday during its midwinter meeting in Denver.The annual awards honor books, video and audio for children and young adults and are highly regarded guides for booksellers, t...
Published: 02/16/18
Review: Paul Goldberg’s ‘The Chateau’ sets sharp political satire in a Florida condo

Review: Paul Goldberg’s ‘The Chateau’ sets sharp political satire in a Florida condo

The election is fraught with wild allegations and vicious character assassination, accusations of corruption and kickbacks, misspelled messages and outrageous debates — and of course the Russians have their hands all over it.The 2016 presidential rac...
Published: 02/16/18

Events: Dr. Steven Masley to discuss ‘Better Brain Solution’ in Tampa

Book TalkRoslyn Franken (Meant to Be: A True Story of Might, Miracles and Triumph of the Human Spirit) will discuss and sign her memoir at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 at Seminole Community Library, St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N.Dr. Ste...
Published: 02/15/18
Lauren Doyle Owens’ ‘Other Side of Everything’ a suspenseful look at life and death in suburbia

Lauren Doyle Owens’ ‘Other Side of Everything’ a suspenseful look at life and death in suburbia

Adel Minor dies alone, in her three-bedroom ranch house in a South Florida suburb. It’s the fire people notice first, a column of smoke rising amid the 1960s ranch houses of Seven Springs, but once it’s put out the firefighters find Adel, a widow in ...
Published: 02/14/18
Jeremy McCarter, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s co-author, tells us what he’s reading

Jeremy McCarter, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s co-author, tells us what he’s reading

NightstandJeremy McCarterMcCarter, 41, is the co-author with Lin-Manuel Miranda of the book Hamilton: The Revolution. It was McCarter who introduced Miranda to Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater in New York, and that introducti...
Published: 02/14/18