The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (2019)
Madrid, Spain. 1957. Francisco Franco has been in power for 18 years. The country is still burdened by the losses of the Spanish Civil War and is shrouded in the secrets necessary under Franco’s oppressive regime. Ana, an orphaned child of dissidents, is lucky to have a good job at the Castellana Hilton Madrid, one of the first tourist hotels allowed in Franco’s Spain. Daniel, an 18-year-old Texan and aspiring photographer, is visiting the hotel with his Spanish mother and oil tycoon father. This novel is the riveting story of how their very different lives, and their secrets, intersect.
Ever since her debut novel, Between Shades of Gray (which depicted the deportation of Lithuanian Jews to Siberian labor camps during WWII), became a “crossover” hit with adults, Ruta Sepetys’ historical fiction novels have found an audience far broader than “young adult.” For existing fans and for new readers, her latest novel will not disappoint. Interspersed with primary source quotations from diplomats and visitors to Madrid during the period, Sepetys’ novel delivers a vivid historical portrait of Francoist Spain that is also part romance and part mystery.
With the relentless pace and the beautiful spare language for which she is known, Sepetys’ novel is a swift-moving tale of the fortunes and misfortunes of one’s birth and the legacies of war. And with reverberations of Franco’s dictatorship still echoing today (his body was exhumed and reburied just last month, and the truths behind secret illegal adoptions ordered during his regime are still being exposed), Sepetys’ work feels timely. Deeply researched and with extensive back matter provided, this tale of a lesser-known era of history deserves to be read widely by adults and young adults alike.
Review by Laurel Cox, Reference and Young Adult Librarian
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