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Review: The Prisoner of the Inquisition

Photo: <em>Prisoner of the Inquisition</em> By Theresa Breslin

Prisoner of the Inquisition By Theresa Breslin

This book was shortlisted for the UKLA book award and is reviewed here by Jez Lansdale who was on the judging panel. The following comments were read aloud at the 2011 award ceremony:

The Prisoner of the Inquisition is set in 1940s Spain and tells the story of Saulo and Zarita; teenagers from opposite ends of a society, living in the dark shadows of religious intolerance and social injustice. The story begins with a brutal miscarriage of justice – a disturbing misuse of power that drives them far apart to rebuild their lives – although their motivations are as extreme as the circumstances of their life. It is a tale of personal revenge, courage, betrayal, adventure and discovery.

Theresa Breslin’s portrayal of Spain under its inquisition is a perfect marriage of fact and fiction; it allows the reader to focus on the period involved while maintaining a vivid and compelling storyline. It is told alternately by its two main characters, focussing on each event from different perspectives but allowing each point of view to be discussed in the first person. Although each character’s tale is rationed to two or three chapters of storytelling at a time, there is no feeling of frustration, no wanting to skip ahead to the next instalment. The events, feelings and encounters described were equally gripping and each new chapter was greeted with a growing sense of breathless curiosity.
There was no hiding from the cruel and grim reality of this dark moment in history. The shocking, opening description of a woman being slowly burnt at the stake left me cursing my earlier advice to my literacy class to read using their five senses, particularly their sense of smell, and I have pledged never again to complain when I burn my finger on the grill. But it added to the suspense and to my almost desperate longing for the right conclusion to a compelling story (one which I was unable to predict).

I loved reading the Prisoner of the Inquisition; it was gripping, emotional, well paced and left me feeling as if I too had escaped from the clutches of Father Besian’s Inquisition. I need never fear OFSTED again.

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