The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Book Review)

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Publication Date: October 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: 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 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.

My thoughts: Ruta Sepetys continues to be one of my absolute favorite historical fiction authors because she puts in years of research to provide us all with an in-depth, fictionalized look into a piece of history that has been brushed under the rug. The Fountains of Silence is a hefty 500+ page novel following multiple characters living in Madrid during the 1950s when the country was under the fascist rule of General Francisco Franco. 

The main protagonist of this story is Daniel, a budding photojournalist whose vacationing in Spain with his parents. Another POV follows Ana, a Spaniard working in the same hotel that Daniel is staying in. Another character we follow is Puri who works in a church where orphans and children are being taken in every day, and Puri begins to suspect that the government is hiding something about these children that they’re hoping will never see the light of day. The final POV is Rafa who is a gravedigger who wants nothing more than his friend to become a professional bullfighter. 

Together, all four points of views, showcase the atrocities and strict control the government has over the Spaniards during the 50s which is a topic I wasn’t that familiar with, but the amount of information that Ruta Sepetys provides to her readers brings us to that specific time period and makes us feel as though we are walking alongside Daniel as he photographs the scenes that play out before him as he slowly discovers how corrupt Spain truly is. 

One protagonist that I didn’t particularly connect with was Rafa, the gravedigger. His storyline felt very much out of place and didn’t interest me until the end of the novel when his storyline finally connected with the other characters. I’ll be honest and admit that I skipped over some of his scenes because they didn’t hold any value to me. 

I do wish the story followed Ana and Puri’s point of views more than it did with Daniel who is an outsider to the atrocities that were occurring in Spain. Although I’m sure it was intentional, so readers could relate to Daniel’s perspective as we follow along with him uncovering the secrets that lie beneath the surface of Madrid, I wish we followed the girls who live in the country all their lives because they had complex feelings about the government that wasn’t explored enough. 

Overall, this is a hefty historical fiction novel that will open the eyes of readers around the world to a time in history that is hardly ever spoken about in textbooks. While this isn’t my favorite Sepetys book, due to the fact that I didn’t connect to the characters as well as I hoped I would, plus I wish we explored the range of emotions flowing from certain characters, I still enjoyed it and highly recommend this book to those wanting to read about historical events that aren’t as well known. 

Book Info: Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Amazon