Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
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.
Spoiler Free Review
Wow, another amazing book by Ruta Sepetys! Within the first 100 pages of this book I was entrapped. This is definitely my second favorite book of Sepetys(my first being Between Shades of Gray). The whole story is just a beautiful story. In all honesty I didn’t really know there was a Spanish Civil War or what happened during Franco’s reign and this book has definitely made me curious. I will definitely be looking up and reading more about this time period.
There are quite a lot of characters in this book and there are a few different point of views that we follow. We follow the perspectives of two families and within those families there are the two main characters, Daniel and Ana. The side characters are many but each and everyone adds to the story. The side characters are Rafa, Julia, Antonio, Fuga, Puri, Nick, and Ben.
Daniel is 18 who is from Texas and has come to Madrid on a family vacation. Daniel’s father is a rich oil tycoon and his mother was born in Spain. As much as Daniel’s father would like him to follow in his footsteps, Daniel wants to be a photojournalist and his mission so to say, is to take pictures that will grant him access to journalist school. I really liked Daniel as a character as I loved seeing how much photography was such a big role in his life and how that also plays into part of the plot. Daniel doesn’t quite understand in fully the life that Ana and her family lives and the complexity of living under the Franco regime. He sees a completely different Spain than he does but as he begins to get to know more about Ana and her life, he sees that the Spain he knows is very different from the actual Spain. One thing I liked about Daniel was his like originality, more specifically through his sense of style. Almost 90% of the book it feels that Daniel is wearing jeans, boots, belt buckle, and plaid shirt and I liked how he stood out against all the embassy diplomats and other officials, I just think it added another layer to him so to say.
Ana is the other main characters. I really loved Ana and I think she might be my favorite character. Ana’s parents went against the Franco regime and because of that they paid with their life, leaving Ana’s older sister Julia and her husband Antonio to take charge. Ana is a dreamer and she often thinks of a life outside of Spain and visiting somewhere out of Spain. Ana works in the hotel in which Daniel is staying at and that is how the two meet. Ana has secrets of her own and though it doesn’t really play much into the plot, it does appear periodically throughout the book. Ana is the one who opens Daniel’s eye to the real Spain and sort of shifts his views, showing him that the Spain he knows and sees is different from the real Spain, the one that she sees.
There are quite a couple of background characters that play a role in the story. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of them and I thought it made the book a bit confusing. But as I read I got to understand why these characters were present and why we got chapters in their point of view. Each of them have their own story/views of living under the Franco regime and their own way in dealing/coping with it and the hand they were given. One clear example of this is Rafa’s friend Fuga. Though he does not have many words his anger can be felt and he uses bullfighting as a way to channel his anger and fight for the kids who have no one to fight for them. Then there is Puri, who is Ana, Julia, and Rafa’s cousin. Puri works at the orphanage and believes in being the perfect image of a perfect Spanish girl. But with more access Puri gets, the more knowledge she learns, and questions start to form. Puri doesn’t get many chapters but I found her storyline interesting. Puri starts to question those she once looked up to and the teachings she’s been taught. At the end of the book it was interesting to see how she turned out and how she changed.
One of my favorite things about Sepetys books is her writing. I find her writing so beautiful and it just adds an extra level to her books. Her writing is just so beautiful and it flows just so well. In between chapters she included little news articles/clippings from the actual time period and I thought that was really cool to see.
One thing I wasn’t a complete fan of was the ending. I can’t say too much without spoilers but I’m just not an overall fan of those kinds of endings. That being said, I think it fits the story.
I was nervous to read this book because from appearance it seems like a dense book. But this book is not a dense book because of the way Sepetys tells the story. It was so easy to get swept up into this story with these characters. This is a book I would definitely recommend to any historical fiction fan or someone who wants to get into historical fiction.