Author Ruta Sepetys, well known for historical fiction novels such as, Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Gray, and Out of the Easy has once again offered readers a powerful and hauntingly beautiful novel entitled The Fountains of Silence. Set in 1957 post war fascist Spain, 18-year-old American, Daniel Matheson has come with his oil tycoon parents to Madrid. His father’s company has hopes of inking an oil deal with dictator Franco, while Daniel hopes to learn more about his mother’s birth country, Spain, through his passion for photography.
As a child of privilege Daniel is soon learns that not all Spaniards enjoy a comfortable and secure lifestyle. Ana, an employee of the hotel at which Daniel is staying, and the young daughter of teachers who sided against Franco during the Spanish Civil War, slowly introduces to him another Spain. A Spain that encompasses hardship, hunger, and fear. Fear of the Guardia Civil (Franco’s military force), fear of landowners, and fear of one’s neighbors. Daniel soon realizes, Spain, its institutions, and its residents have many secrets.
Sepetys masterfully and slowly begins to peal back the layers of the secrets through the short and fast paced chapters narrated by multiple characters. Each narrator powerfully begins to shed light on the dark corners of Spain in eye opening detail. In addition, to the prose, Sepetys weaves primary sources throughout the story at the end of each chapter to provide a greater depth and context to a time in history previously unrealized by many western nations.
The Fountains of Silence like other novels by Sepetys, explores heartbreak, love, and the lasting repercussions of hate and war. Once I began this novel, I was immediately invested in the characters and their journey. I didn’t want the story to end.