The Fountains of Silence (Penguin Link)
by Ruta Sepetys
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray comes a gripping, extraordinary portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.
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 promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an 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 difficult 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 postwar struggles of Spain.
Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.
Release Date : October 1st, 2019, Available Now
Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys and Instagram @RutaSepetysAuthor.
The Fountains of Silence is a lengthy work of historical fiction. While categorized as YA, I found the writing style to be elegant enough that adults might very well enjoy this novel more than the YA demographic. The story lingers on insightful yet subtle details, unfolding a series of sub-plots from the perspectives of multiple characters. These 500+ pages are split into 149 chapters. Each chapter being a couple of pages long lends a freshness to the proceedings. The quick shifts between different viewpoints and situations imparts small but worthwhile tidbits of information.
Interspersed among these chapters are a number of small article clippings and quotations from real publications- they serve to explain background details and inspiration for this novel. I really liked these inclusions and feel they serve a helpful role in adding needed information about the time period and political climate of Franco’s dictatorship.
The setting is Madrid, Spain in 1957. The most well-formed of the characters is Daniel, a fledgling photographer traveling with his parents to a Hilton hotel in Spain. Daniel himself was born and raised in America and is part-Spanish on his mother’s side. Eager to explore Spain for the first time, he makes friends quickly but there is an atmosphere of subtle danger to his exploration. There is a sense of deeply rooted, multi-generational suffering that Daniel (and perhaps, the reader) has minimal knowledge of. He, along with the reader, gradually learns more through the friendships forged and his interest in photography. Some of the situations he stumbles upon and artistic, incisive snapshots he takes hint toward terrible happenings behind the scenes.
Aside from Daniel, we learn about Ana, a maid at the hotel Daniel is staying at. Her family was victim to Franco’s regime. She and her family members have tried hard to stay under the radar, all while continuing to face injustice. Then there is Puri, a young nun whose curiosity leads to some troubling discoveries central to the main plot. We also get to know Ana’s brother, Rafa who has a close friend in Fuga, a talented and driven matador-in-training. They’ve cultivated an endearing friendship.
I would also like to note that while horrific events are referenced, they are not detailed in any gory or gratuitous manner. The writing, by and large, is graceful and delicately handled.
To sum up what I liked about this book- the prose is solid and consistent, with a clean polish and simple flow despite the clearly large amount of research that went into this title. The end pages contain a bibliography detailing how many sources were utilized in the writing of this novel. The pictures and glossary for Spanish phrases is also helpful. I do wish there was a detailed character guide though. The cast is large and it can be easy to forget some side characters if you take a long break between reading sessions.
The climax and later chapters do well in wrapping up what happens to the characters years later. I was fairly satisfied with the ending, which is so important after a 500+ page investment.
Now for what I didn’t like so much, or what I can sense may be roadblocks to enjoyment for other people. Note the title, The Fountains of Silence. The main characters move about their lives slowly, in fear of their government and any sort of action that might put a target on their back. They rarely speak frankly to each other.
The secrecy, the wan niceness of the characters, the lack of options or plans beyond being obedient or coming off as such- these aspects serve to make the story move in a manner that can easily come off as too slow and lacking eventfulness.
Some of the most interesting tidbits develop gradually, with the protagonists seeming very passive all throughout. When it comes to Ana for example, I had very little to think or say about her character for a large portion of this book. I eventually warmed up to her character though. Ultimately, it’s easy to understand and feel compassion for the characters given the multiple generations of oppression. Nonetheless, this reading experience might call for a higher-than-average level of patience and an appreciation for often mild, subtle snapshots into the everyday lives of these characters.
Why You Should Try It – The short chapters and multiple perspectives increase the readability. The well-chosen, frequent and historic tidbits add further understanding. What would otherwise be a heavy and dense subject matter is quite comprehensive. There is a quiet dignity to this narrative, and it educates the reader of an important and underreported time in recent history.
Why You Might Not Like It – The very things that make the writing so elegant and careful can make the unfolding of events and characterization come off as slow-moving and lacking intensity.
September 30 – The Paige Turner – Creative Instagram Picture
October 1 – Fangirl Fury – Review
October 2 – Tome and Textiles – Wardrobe Wednesday with Cover Recreation
October 3 – The Lovely Books – Moodboard
October 4 – The Lovely Loveday – Review
October 7 – ReadsRandiRead – Review + Creative Instagram Picture
October 8 – Confessions of a Book Addict – Listicle: 10 Reasons To Read Fountains of Silence
October 9 – As The Book Ends – Playlist
October 10 – Lollipopsandlyrics – Creative Instagram Picture
October 11 – Metal Phantasm Reads – Review + Playlist
October 14 – Sunshine and Mountains – Listicle: “Movies to watch if you loved Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys”.
October 15 – Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner – Moodboard + Review
October 16 – Cracking the Cover – Review
October 17 – Jessabella Reads – Review
October 18 – The Baroness of Books – Moodboard + Review
Disclosure : I received an ARC (uncorrected proof) of The Fountains of Silence from @PenguinTeen as part of this blog tour.