Happy almost October! Can you believe it? Can you smell fall in the air? I live in Oklahoma and to be honest, that’s been really hard lately. Last week it was in the upper 90s, humid, with no relief in sight. Anyway, that’s not what I came here to talk about so… moving on.
A huge thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me an early copy in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from an ARC and may change in the finished copy.
To be honest I was a little hesitant. I read Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray a few years ago and gave it 3 stars. Since then I haven’t been too interested to read anything else by her. However, when the opportunity arose to receive this ARC, I was willing to give another one of Ruta’s books a try. I’m so glad I did.
Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Expected release date: October 1, 2019 (tomorrow!)
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction
Length: 512 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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.”
“There is tension that exists between history and memory… Some of us are desperate to preserve and remember, while others are desperate to forget.”
I feel ashamed, friends. You know why? Because this book is about a part of Spanish history I never knew about. It wasn’t something I studied in school, even in world history. Why? Why was such an important and dark part of Spain’s history not taught here in America, especially so soon before and after World War II? The Fountains of Silence is a haunting book, not only because it was a reality for so many, but because Franco’s reign ended not very long ago when you think about it.
It actually took me a while to get into this book. I struggled through the first few chapters (short as they were), but then all the pieces start falling into place, and we learn how the characters are connected. I couldn’t stop reading. I loved the idea of Daniel, a biracial character whose Mother is from Spain, visiting this country he’s heard of and about through his mother but never experienced. And while he doesn’t spend much time with his family while he’s here, we see him mix with two very different crowds and go into some dangerous avenues. I wasn’t too sure what to think of the romance between Daniel and Ana but it was so gradual and beautiful, exposing parts of each other they wanted to hide.
Once we discover the darkness later in the book, it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to wipe this part of history away and pretend it never happened. I also found myself crying. This book is gut- and heart-wrenching to the point where I finished it and then immediately Googled this time in Spain’s history and the part the U.S. played. If you do anything, read this book to enlighten yourself.
I will say though, the book doesn’t end like you think it would. I was…shocked and loved every bit of it despite the circumstances it took to get there.
Wow, what can I say about these characters? Each have their own struggles (though Daniel can’t begin to comprehend what Ana and her family went and are continuing to go through), each with something to hide (even Daniel from his own parents). Ana could be so carefree but there’s a secret she’s carrying for a greater part of the book, something that draws you in from the very first page. I love how Daniel and Ana’s POVs work with Rafa, who wants to be so carefree and optimistic, is also in contrast with his and Ana’s older sister, Julia, who feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders as the eldest daughter with a husband and a child of her own.
The only reason I didn’t give this book a full 5 stars is because with multiple POVs, it was hard for me to connect with each character when their respective chapters were so short. Perhaps this falls a bit more into the “Writing Style” category but I’m the type of person who, if there are multiple POVs, prefers longer chapters so I can get a better sense of who they are early on. Perhaps this creates less mystery for people, but it’s just a personal preference. I really felt empathized with all of the characters, and hoped things would end well for all of them. But I think Sepetys’s wrote the almost ending and the actual ending (if that makes sense) on purpose. And it was that in itself which really made this book stellar for me.
“Some friendships are born of commonality. Others of proximity. And some friendships, often the unlikely ones, are born of hardship.”
I feel like I can’t be a proper judge here since this is only the second Sepetys book I’ve read, but her dedication to getting this story right and accurate historical and to do justice to its history deserves a round of applause. As I said earlier, this book is haunting and beautiful. If you’re an avid fan of historical fiction, with its detailed writing, please do yourself a favor and pick up this book.
Ruta is also going on tour! Check out her tour dates by clicking here.