With the recent announcement of the Man Booker International Award shortlist for books in translation, I recalled some of my favorite books that had me grateful for the translator. Jhumpa Lahiri’s memoir In Other Words is an inspiration to learn to read (and write) in another language – but I’m not there yet.
My favorite translated author, Carlos Ruiz Zafón has led me through many satisfying quests from The Shadow of the Wind to Prisoner of Heaven. I looked for the cemetery of lost books when I toured Barcelona. A new adventure – Marina – the novel Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote just before The Shadow of the Wind, is now available in its English translation – and I eagerly anticipate the thrills.
Haruki Murakami’s absurdist books can be difficult to follow at times, but the unresolved ending of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage still haunts me.
The Man Booker International Prize 2016 will be awarded in May. Their shortlist includes two I have on my to-read list:
- Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child (the last of the four book series by the elusive Italian author). I may start with My Brilliant Friend and proceed in a binge reading fury. If you have read them, advise me – do I need to read all four or can I skip to the award winner?
- Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness in Their Mind by the Turkish winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. I meant to read his Museum of Innocence – maybe I’ll start there. Have you read it?
Most of the books I read tend to disappear from my memory within days of finishing – one of the reasons I started writing reviews was to keep a reference log as a reminder. Some books this year stayed with me, and I can recall a magic 7 that would be worth recommending again:
Bring Up the Bodies: Hilary Mantel’s second historical fiction featuring Thomas Cromwell has me yearning for the last and third book yet to be published.
A Discovery of Witches and the sequel were fast adventures with a brilliant academic who also happens to be a witch who can time travel. Author Deborah Harkness promises a third in the series next year.
Son – Lois Lowry’s long awaited sequel to her award winning The Giver.
The Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Gothic tales are always an adventure.
The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau – Jon Agee’s picture book with pictures that come to life is one to keep on the shelf.
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore must be read on real pages to appreciate the blue.
Train Dreams – Denis Johnson’s fictional history of the American West was short but intense.
What favorites from 2012 do you recommend?
Are you ready to renew your library card for the the Cemetery of Lost Books? Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s latest Gothic tale of mystery and political intrigue – The Prisoner of Heaven – continues the adventure from his The Shadow of the Wind, but the history of that escapade is not necessary to understand or enjoy this one.
Daniel Sempere is grown, married, and a father; he continues to work at the bookstore with his father. Fermin, itinerate lover, spy, and rogue, is about to be married, but the dilemma of his identity becomes one of the threads that Zafón weaves to tie the present to the past. Worrying that he will not be able to rightfully give his bride a name he has stolen, Fermin tells the story of his past in an electrifying series of events during the early days of Franco’s dictatorship – the best part of the book.
The story slows at times, when the present intrudes – with Daniel suspecting his wife of infidelity or mysterious dark figures lurking in corners, and the plot teases the reader with expectations that are never resolved. You may suspect who and where Daniel Martin, the writer, hostage, and prisoner of heaven is, but Zafón will not give you the satisfaction of being sure. Maybe the next book will reveal more.
Despite the vague ending, Zafón has delivered another riveting historical thriller.
Clever marketing isn’t necessary for one of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s books, but who can resist a free story? Rose of Fire, a Zafón short story, is a free download on iBooks, and ends not only with a tantalizing cliffhanger, but also continues with the first two chapters of Zafón’s latest Barcelona adventure – The Prisoner of Heaven – a tease that’s hard to resist.
Rose of Fire reveals the origin of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the library from which a fortunate patron can take only one book in a lifetime. This secret repository is the premise for Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novels: The Shadow of the Wind, its prequel The Angel’s Game; and now the sequel The Prisoner of Heaven.
If you’ve read Shadow of the Wind, familiar characters reappear – Fermin Romero de Torres, friend and former spy, and Daniel Sempere, now grown and still at the bookstore. The Prisoner of Heaven is the continuation of Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind – more intrigue, mystery, and danger in a Gothic tale- masked by the politics of the Franco dictatorship.
Zafón is one of my favorite authors and Shadow of the Wind is at the top of my books to recommend. The Prisoner of Heaven promises to continue the excitement, and, of course, I had to buy it after reading those first “free” chapters.
Before he created the haunting tale of The Shadow of the Wind – one of my favorite books; I’m still looking for the Cemetery of Lost Books – Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote young adult literature. In his author’s note, Zafon reveals that The Prince of Mist was his first published book.
Using familiar themes: good vs evil, be careful what you wish for, be faithful to your friends, and whatever you do, don’t make a deal with the devil – Zafón compels the story into fantasy, with a convincing dose of realism. In The Prince of Mist, Max and his sister, Alicia, meet a new friend, Roland, when they move to a beach front house to escape the war that threatens the city. The house holds old secrets and hidden threats; together the friends face off against an evil character in a wild adventure with clocks running backwards and old sunken ships with skeletons. The underwater scenes will have you holding your breath.
A fellow Zafón fan told me about the book – a quick easy read before she settled into another of Zafón’s longer new publications – The Angel’s Game. Zafón is an author who always delivers magic with exciting adventure.