Say hello to one of my new favorite reads, Ruta Sepety’s latest addition to bookstore shelves, The Fountains of Silence. There’s something for fans of historical fiction here, obviously — in spades! And for those yet unconvinced by the genre, there’s the lure of an expertly crafted forbidden romance to draw you in. So, step on closer, because this is a read you will not want to miss!
Set in 1950s Spain, the story plays out during one of the cruelest periods of Spanish history, the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Told through the lens of four teenagers, with chapters interspersed by news clippings, speeches, and quotes from the time. At the core of the story are Ana and Daniel, who begin the story as strangers but quickly form a friendship that buds into something more.
Ana is Spanish. A child of republican parents, both of whom were executed by the fascist regime that crushed opposition and punished their families. Ana works as a maid at the Hotel Castellana Hilton, where Daniel, the son of an American oil executive, is staying while his father is brokering a deal with Franco, and Daniel’s Spanish born mother is off on mysterious errands. A friendship forms between Ana and Daniel that introduces both to the very different world in which the other lives. A friendship that must remain secret and is not without its dangers. For Ana, opening up about the reality of life under the oppressive rule of General Franco could mean the loss of her job (and the income her family so desperately needs) and much worse. In a country ruled by fear, remaining silent is the mode to survival. And aspiring photojournalist Daniel quickly realizes that as a tourist in fascist Spain, he is free only to document the government-approved facade of Spanish life.
The Fountains of Silence was my first introduction to Spain under the blood-soaked dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. And there’s nothing quite like getting to discover the world via a well-told (and impeccably researched) historical narrative. It’s how I wish high-school history lessons could have been. Every time I read a book that shows me how little I know about a particular time in our shared human history, it makes me fall in love with historical fiction all over again.
The story is an addictive sort of read, with an air of mystery and intrigue that keeps the pages turning, and one you will effortlessly find yourself falling into. Sepetys is a master at weaving story thread to form a tapestry rich in detail, one depicting both the brutality as well as the beauty of the setting and period. A masterful piece of historical fiction.
Book: The Fountains of Silence
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2019
Age Range: 15 – adult