Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 512
Genre:  YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Philomel
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Out of the Easy
and Salt to the Sea
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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.

It's 1957 and although things look beautiful and sunny in Spain, there's a darker undercurrent after the Spanish Civil War and Francisco Franco's rise to power.  Daniel is traveling to Spain with his parents; his dad is a Texan oil tycoon on business.  Sure, it would be easy for Daniel to just fall into the successful family business, but he wants so much more. His passion lies in photojournalism and where better to explore this than in Spain?  Then there's Ana, who works at the hotel Daniel is staying at.  Ana's life is complicated and her back story is a sad one.  She is assigned to Daniel's family and finds herself, along with Daniel, connecting with him in more ways than one.  There's also Rafael, Ana's brother, who also is recovering from his upsetting past, but despite this has big dreams for himself.  Lastly, there's Puri who is helping to take care of babies that are up for adoption.  Each teenager, in their own way, captures this tumultuous time in Spain's history.  The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys explores the themes of freedom, family, loyalty, love, and the hardships of war.  This book is an excellent example of historical fiction; it will grab your heart and not let go.

I love that Sepetys focuses on four teenagers, and while they are all very different, they do have ties that bind them together.  Daniel is the only American and I found myself especially drawn to his story.  Navigating Spain as an American during this time period is tough and dangerous, especially when he takes a path that is a difficult one.  Daniel is very interested in taking photos that mean something and being here in Spain brings him an excellent opportunity, but as I mentioned before, it's very dangerous.  Plus, he and Ana have a connection, but could they truly have a future together?  I also really liked the character of Ana. Her back story truly tugged on my heartstrings.  It was challenging for women during this time period, but especially for women with backgrounds like Ana. You see Ana's parents challenged the "rules" in Spain and she is worried that her family will continue to pay for it.

What is so special about The Fountains of Silence as well as all of Sepetys' novels is the fact that she inspires readers to learn more and to search for answers. I found myself looking up various aspects of Franco's reign and the Spanish Civil War. Sepetys took a lesser known aspect of history and truly inspired me to learn more about the past. That is the perfect example of a powerful historical novel and a great reminder of why I read historical fiction.

Also, Sepetys did a wonderful job bringing the time period to life, but somehow making it still relevant to the many struggles we still face today. The Fountains of Silence would be an excellent addition to any high school classroom, especially when discussing the Spanish Civil War or fascism.  I also urge adults to pick up this novel as it is powerful and definitely a crossover to adult fiction.  If you love historical fiction or just appreciate a moving story, this novel shouldn't be missed. Sepetys is a masterful storyteller and not just a storyteller of regular stories, but of stories that truly matter....stories that stay with us.  The Fountains of Silence is one of my favorite novels of the year. 


  1. I love how the author uses lesser-known historical events to drive her stories - it really makes the historical fiction aspect feel fresh.

  2. She does historical fiction so well. And I love that she doesn't have one era of focus.

    I can't wait to read this one!


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