Aaaahhh!! Incoherent screaming! I've loved Ruta Sepetys's books forever (see my recent #bookstagram post on Salt to the Sea), and I'm so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Fountains of Silence! I have my review here today, as well as a cool moodboard for the novel.
The Book and its Author
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography--and fate--introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War--as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence--inspired by the true postwar struggles of Spain.
Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a "crossover" novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys and Instagram @RutaSepetysAuthor.
Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review!
The Fountains of Silence is a beautiful knockout of a novel. Ruta Sepetys has done it again. I am constantly amazed by her characters and worlds, and this novel is no exception. I knew almost nothing about Franco’s Spain going in, but by the end I felt that I had learned so much about a part of history rarely spoken of (at least in American culture). This novel portrays powerfully the traumas that Spaniards went through under Franco’s fascist regime, and also the contrast between locals in Madrid and the American tourists who traveled there unaware of the horrors perpetuated by the government.
This novel instantly sucked me in. I didn’t intend to finish it in one sitting, but Sepetys’ writing is so magnetic that I couldn’t stop reading. Most of the book is character building: I spent so much time getting to know Ana, Daniel, Rafa, Julia, and Puri that they felt incredibly real to me. The Fountains of Silence is long, but every page is worth the read. There’s also a small mystery subplot that heightens toward the end and ties all of the characters together while revealing another impactful side of Spanish history. For fear of spoilers, since I KNOW you’re going to read The Fountains of Silence, I won’t say more.
Daniel and Ana were the main characters in my opinion, and I loved their chemistry and dynamic. Daniel is the son of an American oil tycoon, and Ana works as a maid at the Hotel Castellana Hilton, where Daniel stays in Madrid. Her parents were Spanish Republicans, and they were tortured and killed because of their political views. Therefore, Ana and her siblings must work hard to be seen as loyal to Franco to avoid being linked to their parents’ ideas. Daniel knows little of life for Spaniards, but I appreciated how respectful he was of Ana and how he was willing to learn more about Spain and try to make change through his photography instead of just brushing off the struggles of the Spanish people. Daniel and Ana’s relationship was one of my favorite parts of the novel.
I also enjoyed reading about Daniel’s photography. When I was reading his POV, I was struck by the ways in which he observed the world differently: framing shots in his mind, thinking about composition, separating moments into frames, and creating a story with a picture. This allowed him to explore the unseen in Spain and look deeper into the country’s hidden truths than his society peers. These shadowy elements of life in Spain during Franco’s regime were always in the background (and sometimes frighteningly in the foreground) of the novel, and there were moments when I literally stopped breathing while reading. Sepetys portrays the fear and tension in the country masterfully, and the care that she put into her research is evident.
Sure enough, part of writing a historical fiction novel is placing the events within a larger historical context, which Sepetys did well. She included sections of letters and news excerpts from the time period relating to Franco and Spain. She also included a bibliography in the back, which I appreciate. I know I will be reading some of those works to gain a better understanding of the time period she portrayed.
The Fountains of Silence is a gripping novel, full of empathy and the power of human connection. I give it 5/5 stars, and insist that everybody pick up a copy.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.