Featured Review: The Fountains of Silence (Ruta Sepetys)
About This Book:
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into the country under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas 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 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 post-war struggles of Spain. Includes vintage media interstitials, oral history commentary, photos, and more.
*Review Contributed By Kim Baccellia Staff Reviewer*
What worked: I'm a huge Sepetys fan. She has a gift of weaving in strong emotional connections during painful historical periods. In this novel readers are introduced to Daniel, the son of an oil tycoon and Ana, the daughter of parents with the 'Red gene'. She lives in poverty and works at the hotel where she meets Daniel and his family. The government encourages foreign tourism and puts on a facade of sunshine and light, while it's people suffer in silence.
The chemistry between Ana and Daniel is strong and magnetic. Readers hope that their story will have a happy ending amidst the backdrop of the fascist regime. Daniel is strong, unapologetic, and determined to have a career as a photojournalist. He also refuses to back down and stay away from Ana, even if that puts his life in danger. Ana's story is sadder. Readers learn how her parents ended up dying due to fighting against Franco. Ana and her family are forced into poverty and have no hopes for a future.
I usually have a hard time keeping characters apart, but in The Fountains of Silence, each character adds to the intensity of the novel. Readers see beyond the tourist Spain to the country led by a cruel and heartless regime. Readers will weep over the loss of innocence of so many, especially the hopes of characters like Fuga, who want to be the next bullfighter. The extremism of a regime to only have one religion and rehabilitate others is shown through the eyes of the outlooker-Daniel. He feels helpless and at loss on how he can help.
There's also a very painful past that is revealed. That past is how the government was behind 300,000 babies being stolen from parents and adopted into families that were considered less degenerate. There are scenes in the novel where Ana's brother, Rafa and his friend Fuga, work in the cemetery and bury numerous baby coffins. Fuga's suspects not all is what it seems. Even Ana's cousin Puri, who is a nun and works in one of the orphanages with the babies, has questions that lead her to discovering a painful part of her own past.
Mesmerizing historical tale set in 1957 Madrid where a Fascist dictatorship hides a cruel past secret. Heart wrenching reveals of a time with an ugliness hidden by sunshine. At the back of the novel are photos and an author's note on the history during this time. A must read for Sepetys fans and those who love historical novels.