The Fountains of Silence

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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.

After reading Salt to the Sea, I knew that I had to read anything by Ruta Sepetys simply because that book broke me a little bit in the best way possible. Comparing The Fountains of Silence with Salt to the Sea was going to be an obvious and natural thing for me and I was prepared for it but the funny thing is, I never really ended up comparing them. Sure they are both books about dark times in human history and once again, she decided to use the voice of young adults rather than the ‘proper’ adults but the thing is. That’s where the similarities end for me.

The story revolves around four main characters, brother and sister Rafa and Ana and their cousin Puri and an American teenager just out of high school, Daniel. Rafa and Ana have suffered a lot over the years and each deal with it in their own ways. Rafa works two jobs, one at a slaughterhouse and another at the cemetery and has an immense faith in his friend Fuga. Despite his suffering at the hands of the government or maybe because of it, Rafa is optimistic where as Ana has dreams of her own and wants to leave the oppressing place she’s stuck in. Puri is the result of the way how even a successful doctrine can start to fall apart after a while. Daniel is a young man who is more interested in looking at the world through his camera lens than look after his father’s business. All these characters meet up and have their lives entangle with each other because Daniel’s family stays at the Castellana Hilton where Ana works.

It was through this book that I came to learn more about the Spanish struggle under Generalissimo Franco. Before, I was aware of it but never really thought much about it but Sepetys really manages to get the reader feel the oppression and the constant worry and the unending fear through her writing. I could see and feel the poverty of Vallecas and I never knew that a hopeful bullfighter had to have sponsor and in order for that to happen, he needed to risk his life. There were so many things I was completely unaware of and which made me want to learn more about this period in Spain’s history. There’s so many layers to this book that I feel like if I re-read it some other time, I will be surprised by its secrets unveiling again.

As far as the characters are concerned, there’s such an ease to getting to know the characters that it was almost halfway over before I realised that I had read more than I needed to for the day. The setting, the period and the characters made this book, no doubt about that. As with Salt to the Sea, there are a few characters that I absolutely loved to hate and I cried for Fuga and I felt so bad for Puri and her slow understanding of horrible things happening in her work. There’s romance as well but there’s friendship and nuanced relationships which were just superbly done. There were times when I just put down the book and thought, ‘Wow, yes, that’s a good friendship.’ or ‘What have they gone through, dear god!’.

Overall, a story set during the reign of the Generalissimo Franco and the policies that affected an entire country in horrible ways, managed to wow me just as much as Salt to the Sea did. There was love and loss and a sense of undeniable doom and throughout it all, those characters shone through and I absolutely loved it, okay? The sense of danger and secrets that made everyone’s lives dangerous, gosh, typing this review makes me want to read it again and that should tell you enough about this book, I think.


One thought on “The Fountains of Silence

  1. Pingback: October Wrap Up

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