THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE
Written by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books, October 1, 2019
My star rating – 5 stars
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. Find it on Goodreads
…….. This book was so good….. just SO good! Ruta Sepetys is hands down my favourite historical fiction author. What she’s able to do on the page is nothing short of remarkable. Her characters feel like they were real people and this isn’t a novel, but a biography. She invokes so much emotion in the reader without even realizing that you’re so attached to the story. She captures the setting with so much clarity that you know what the country looks like without even seeing a picture. She’s also able to drive me to learn more about the people, places and events of the past, making me realize that there’s so much about this world that I don’t know.
I will say though, this wasn’t quite the tear jerker that I expected. Between Shades of Gray made me cry more times than I could count on my two hands. I don’t even think that I made it to page 20 before I had a puddle of tears on my shirt and blanket! It still punched me in the gut and my emotions were unstable. You can’t help but feel all the emotions as you continue through this book.
This book was made so brilliant by her characters. Honestly, some of the best characters I’ve EVER read. No word of a lie. I kept picking up my phone to google the characters only to remember that they’re fictional. That’s how well they were written. I heard their voices (including inflection) in my head as I read dialogue. I felt their emotions in my core. I was mad, happy, sad, defeated, excited and so much more right along with them. Yes, the story if great, and the message is hard hitting, but this book wouldn’t have had the impact it did without these characters!
Aside from the characters, the thing that I loved most was the theme of the polarizing differences between Spain and America. During the reign of Franco, when he allowed tourists into the country, what American saw and what the people of Spain were actually living couldn’t have been more different. Americans saw a paradise. Sunshine, warm weather, castles, a beautiful landscape, and a people who were free and happy. In reality though, the people of Spain were suffering. Starving, living in horrible conditions, working multiple jobs and still not having enough money to feed their families, and having zero freedoms at all, not even to speak. They walked on egg shells and were afraid to do the wrong thing or else they would be executed. If they couldn’t pay the “rent” on a burial plot, the bones of their loved ones would be thrown into a pit. They served the Americans that had lives they could only dream of and had to act as though nothing was happening. It was the contrast of perception versus reality that drove home just how bad things were at that time.
What Ruta Sepetys can do for hope though – remarkable. She points out just how difficult it is. She shows that even though you are broken, there are still things to look forward to and be grateful for. She shows what people can do to make changes in their lives. She writes families and friends who are there to help, no matter how much people can truly understand the struggle. She illustrates the driving force in people to follow their dreams – and it’s beautiful!
I read through this book SO FAST! What I love about the format of her books is that the chapters are super short. Some are only 1-2 pages in length. And what she’s able to do in just a page or two blows my mind! This book was highly addictive and the short chapters made me say “Just one more chapter” until I realized that I had read way too late. If you like historical fiction and fantastically written characters, this is a MUST READ!
Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada and Philomel Books for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and are uninfluenced.
Until next time, happy reading!