Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 1st 2019 from Philomel Books (Penguin)
Format: Physical ARC from the publisher via the blog tour
Synopsis: 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.
About the Author
Ruta Sepetys is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction 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.
When I saw the cover and official synopsis of this book, I couldn’t wait to have this book in my hands! Ruta Sepetys has become a historical fiction author who is not only an author that continues to amaze me with teaching me about lost chapters in history, but I believe her books are important. They contain stories of people who are experiencing or have experienced trauma during rough times in history and how they find hope and overcome it. That’s especially the case with this book. I had no idea that Franco was the leader of Spain after WWII and also that he was aided by Hitler and Mussolini! That alone shocked me with that bit of history. But of course, this story that’s being told is raw, honest, but also full of hope and finding yourself and what you really want.
The book is set in Spain in 1957. We follow Daniel, a boy from Texas, who comes to Madrid, after his father is able to drill for oil here in Spain. He’s a photographer who wants to gather photos of Spain for a photography contest, as well as find his Spanish roots since his mother was born in Spain. Despite him having Spanish roots, he feels like an outsider as he tries to understand a country that’s both hiding secrets and is also tied to him. He meets Ana, a girl who works at the Castella Hilton that his family is staying at. Ana is a girl whose parents were murdered for being Republicans during the Spanish Civil War and she also yearns to connect with Daniel despite her family ties to the last effects of the war. As both of them grow closer, Daniels starts to see, through his photographs, the horrible things the war has done to Spain and his people and he wonder how he can protect those he loves.
I loved Daniel and Ana so much! Daniel is a young man trying to not only pursue his passion, but also understand the truth about what Spain went through, despite being treated as an outsider. I loved his honest intentions to know the truth and the way Sepetys describes him taking the photos and the captions for each photo is haunting in its own way. The way he learns the truth about the war’s effects are a harsh reality and my heart broke for what happened in this time in history. Daniel’s POV is from an outsider looking in, as Sepetys was herself when researching this novel and I loved seeing how Daniel grew from this trip to Spain.
Then, there’s Ana; I sensed her quiet desperation for connection from when she first meets Daniel. She lives in a small hut like structure with her siblings Rafa and her older sister Juliet, her husband Antonio and their little baby girl Lali. This family has suffered so much from what happened to their parents during the war and you see how there’s tension among these siblings of how they each want to either keep silent or try and be their own person. Their family bond felt so real and I cared for their situation. It’s so heartbreaking to know that people have felt this way during this time and how some can even feel this way today. But I loved how Ana still followed her heart, despite the fine line she was walking. She has secrets of her own and her character arc was natural and complicated.
We also follow Rafa, Ana’s brother and his friend Fuga. Fuga is set out to be a famous matador and he’s a mysterious person. Not even Rafa know’s Fuga’s real name or birthday, but they are brothers in arms. They had lived through the horrors of one of the many boys home that existed in Spain, where they were tortured and abused by nuns and other workers in these homes and you can see how Rafa still stays positive despite his past, but also how it channels Fuga in his dream. Fuga was actually my favorite character in the whole book. While he hardly speaks and isn’t a main character, his fierce spirit captivated me immediately. I liked seeing the friendship between these two and how they trained and pursued their dream. Both of these boys were proof that a civil war couldn’t prevent you from being who you were and overcoming your personal demons. Their story line was both emotional but also perfectly written and I know that Fuga will stay with me for a long time.
I also really enjoyed the side characters that you get to know in this book. There’s Nick, a rich kid from the States that becomes a friend to Nick at the hotel. You have Ben, an older man whose a reporter and takes Daniel under his wing to be a real photographer and even help Daniel as he tries to discover the truth. I liked how he was a true mentor to Daniel and his wisdom really helped shape Daniel into the man he becomes. There’s also Puri, a young girl who volunteers in the orphanage and clinics with the nuns. She has questions of her own about her identity and a secret that Spain is hiding. While I did want more closure from Puri’s story, I did appreciate her POV into this secret and how a girl was asking so many questions and trying to find the courage to answer those tough questions.
I appreciate this book so much and I really hope this will resonate with so many people! The snippets of politicians and other people were affiliates with Spain, along with the photographs and author’s note added more richness and harsh reality to this book. While this book is longer, I read huge chunks at a time and the time flew by very fast when reading this. I got lost in 1957 Spain whenever I opened the book and I didn’t want to put it down. This is a very important book and I can’t wait to see what Sepetys writes next. Salt to the Sea is still my favorite book by her, but this one still really packs a punch!
I really wanted to gather songs that both captured emotions and the feelings of the book after I read it. These songs might not have been popular or even around the time this book takes place. But I think this playlist is a fun fan soundtrack for this book. Enjoy!
- “Moon River” by Jane Monheit
- “A Mother’s Love” from the Downton Abbey soundtrack
- “Tango Flamenco” music by ARMIK (title taken from YouTube video) *traditional Spanish music*
- “Your Hands are Cold” from the 2005 Pride & Prejudice soundtrack
- “Goodbye Brother” from the Game of Thrones soundtrack, music by Ramin Djawadi
- “Good Enough” by Evanescence from the 2006 album The Open Door
- “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the 2010 soundtrack of Inception
- “Somewhere” by Charlotte Church (cover of the West Side Story song)
- “Pain, Loss and Love” by Harry Gregson-Williams from the Wonder Woman Soundtrack
- “Answer” by Sarah McLachlan from her 2003 album Afterglow
A huge thank you to the publisher for this awesome blog tour! If you’ve read this book, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Also tell me what your favorite book from Ruta Sepetys is! Happy reading everyone 🙂