Monthly Archives: July 2012

My Life in Literature

Every once in a while I come across a meme. Some of them are quite entertaining, like this one I saw on Adam’s blog and also over at Shonna’s. I enjoyed reading their answers and decided to give it a try and see what answers I can come up with. Since I can only use reviews of books I posted on my blog, this was a bit of a challenge. But it was fun. So here I go:

1. Describe yourself: Smoke and Mirrors
2. How do you feel: Under The Dome
3. Describe where you currently live: Weaveworld
4. If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
5. Your favorite form of transportation: Vanishing Acts
6. Your best friend is: Little Bee
7. You and your friends are: A Thousand Splendid Suns
8. What’s the weather like: Fahrenheit 451
9. You fear: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
10. What is the best advice you have to give: Nothing to Lose
11. Thought for the day: By Blood We Live
12. How I would like to die: The Prisoner of Heaven
13. My soul’s present condition: The Sense of An Ending

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The Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Luis Zafón

For weeks the idea of making a shelf – a place to keep my scattered books – seemed like a daunting task. And yet, it was done, slowly, a few hours every day, over the space of a week – the wood cut into precise (well, almost precise) parts, rubbed with sandpaper until it felt smooth to the touch, holes drilled into it to hold the metal screws, the smell of burned wood strong and delicious, a scent I have started to love. And then when it was ready, the books took their places, ready to sleep the sleep of the undisturbed until a hand will pull them out of that rest and leaf through for favorite passages or maybe for a new read.

Stepping back to look at it, I was reminded of that wonderful concept Zafón has incorporated in his three books that are part of a series: The Angel’s Game, The Shadow of the Wind, and his latest, The Prisoner of Heaven. If you’ve read any of them you might guess what I’m about to say: “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, a magical place that Zafón describes as a secret place filled with many books, a place known to a very few. A place where one (but not just anyone) can go and choose a book to save from oblivion, a book that they are responsible for as long as they live. While my new shelf certainly could not be called a cemetery – I’d rather think of it as a “sanctuary for books” – it did bring back to mind Zafón’s words. And his three novels have their own place in it.

The Prisoner of Heaven is divided into five parts, and the story goes back and forth in time. In this new volume of the series, the reader is brought back to the characters they first met in The Shadow of the Wind – the Sempere family, more precisely the father and his son, Daniel, who is now married and has a son of his own. The Sempere family owns a bookstore and the business is not doing so well. One night a mysterious man comes in and buys the most expensive book on display and inscribes it to Fermín de Torres, a friend of the Sempere family who also works in the bookstore. From then on, things start to get complicated. And with his usual flair for drama, Zafón starts building yet another mystery in which the past comes back, secrets are revealed and in turn beget more secrets. We find out more about David Martín, the main character in The Angel’s Game, and his connection to the Sempere family. Fermín’s grim past is revealed and also the ramifications of a promise he made a long time ago and his effort to build a new life by marrying Bernarda, the woman he loves.

I confess to having been a bit lost in the story – I’ve read the first two books in the series a few years ago and some details that I felt were crucial where lost. Even though a passage at the beginning of the novel says the books in the series are “self-contained” and can be read in any order, I felt like something was missing. That being said, I did enjoy the third installment; in spite of the book being peppered with clichés and the flamboyancy of the writing, I felt myself entertained and curious enough to turn every page, anxious to see what happens next. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much, it reminds me of the sensationalist Victorian novels where every new chapter meant tragedy and tears and possibly even death. This book has its share of all three.
The end is a promise for more drama and tragedy. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Until then, I leave you with a question: if you could go to “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, which book would you save?

*Read in July 2012

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A read-along of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver (III)

Some days ago, I got back my copy of The Poisonwood Bible and opened it at the beginning to see if the book started like I remembered, with a woman walking in the jungle. It did. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the books we love the most leave such an imprint on our memory. I wish I could remember them all but I know that is not possible.


Part 3, Chapters 19 – 31

Chapter 19 of Prodigal Summer brought me back to Deanna’s story. Something was happening to her, a sort of lethargy that made her forget things, a heightened awareness of the life moving around her in the forest, a tiredness that made her sleepy in the daytime and sleepless at night. Living with Eddie had changed her but it was a chapter in her life that would end soon. In the end, after Eddie was gone and the changes in her body could not be ignored anymore, it was time to make a decision. There was a new life to consider.

Back on her farm, Lusa had started to realize that after she had lost a husband she had gained a family, his family – Cole’s brothers and sisters and nephews who at first were cautious in their interactions with her but as time went by found themselves appreciating her. Getting close to Crys, her young niece, was not easy, but as Lusa started to teach her about bugs and trees and plants, she started to feel connected to this wild child who ran around dressed like a boy and spoke with a weird accent she sometimes struggled to understand. Lusa, just like Deanna, loves nature. Cutting and selling the trees on her property could bring her lots of money but, like she explained to Crys, it would only put in motion a chain reaction that would affect the life of all the creatures living in that area. You cut a tree, many more years will need to pass before a new one can grow to maturity in its place, you kill the bugs in an area, you take away some bird’s food. There are consequences to every action, some of them more far reaching and devastating than others.

The dynamic of Garnett and Nannie’s interactions had started to change, as well. To his surprise, Garnett even found himself feeling protective of the woman he used to dread talking to. As both of them learned to let down their guard and share experiences and memories, they found that it just might be possible to become friends, and maybe even more. There are things to look forward to now – for Nannie, the arrival of Deanna, a woman she raised together with her own daughter, and the promise of life she brings with her. For Garnett, it is the re-opening of a chapter he thought closed long ago: his nephew and niece will come to visit – grandchildren he never had anything to do with until now that Lusa has discovered that her sister-in-law’s children have a grandfather they’ve never met. And so life springs again, with hope where it once was only memory.

The book ends in a perfect circle, bringing into focus again one of the paragraphs from the beginning. It’s a beautiful ending, and even though none of the stories are fully closed, there is hope for better things to come. It left me wanting to know more about the lives of the people in the story. I wish I knew what happened to Deanna and how she adapted to the life away from the solitude of the forest. I wish I knew who Eddie was and if they ever met again. I wish I knew if Lusa found love again and if she was happy. And I wish I could have seen how the friendship between Nannie and Garnett continued to grow and if, perhaps, it grew into something more.

There are many beautiful passages in this last part and this is the one I liked the most:

“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.”

I enjoyed this book a lot. I’ve learned things about bugs and plants and I was reminded of what would happen if they disappeared and that prey and predator play an important role in keeping the balance of life, especially in a forest. Kingsolver describes with an infinite tenderness and sadness the small and great tragedies that make up life and the feeling of guilt and sorrow when we find out that we can’t interfere with nature but must leave it to follow its course. Human emotions find their echo in nature: a storm matches an inner turmoil, a lazy sunny day mirrors contentment and the end of summer marks the end of a solitary period of time. I also liked the beautiful poem Prothalamium, at the beginning of the book.
I look forward to reading more books by Barbara Kingsolver. I have Pigs in Heaven on my TBR list and hopefully I will read it soon. This is one writer I will add to the list of my favorite authors.


This is the last part of the three week read-along I did with Vishy. Many thanks to him for agreeing to share this wonderful experience with me. You can read his review here.

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