Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Hi everyone! Summer went by so quickly for me but I still managed to squeeze in a book before I was swept away by senior year. I’m so excited to share with you The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys.

Cover may not be final
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.

Sepety's style of writing is just beautiful. It flows right from the beginning and builds with intensity, with every line feeling deliberate while still progressing naturally overall. And this writing style is what makes this novel distinct from other fiction- rather than having a very structured series of events, this novel ebbs and flows through different circumstances and perspectives, bringing a sense of authenticity to the story.

And although the story isn't dramatized, in each written snapshot there is striking intensity and a sense of finality- of “this is the norm." And this novel also brings with it a powerful feeling of "this was real"- that profound sense in historical fiction that can’t really be created by any other genre. The Fountains of Silence explores life in Spain following the Spanish Civil War through multiple lenses, providing a glimpse into a history often glossed over.

First is Daniel, travelling to Madrid from a wealthy American family. Through him, we see snapshots of 1950s America- the social circles, conformity, and conservatism- and also fascist Spain as an outsider. He tries to understand the complexities of a world and culture he feels somewhat connected to through his Spanish heritage but in reality is still worlds away. And most us of are like Daniel, seeing tragedies, horrors, and injustice secondhand, and being unable to truly understand another’s circumstances when they are so unlike our own, which is what I think makes this novel so compelling.

The world that Daniel is glimpsing is Ana’s reality. Her work in an American hotel in Madrid with the exuberant displays of wealth and power is a sharp juxtaposition to her circumstances at home, yet she can’t help but dream. And through her we see many other characters who complete the story: Julia, Rafa, Fuga, and Puri, who each respond in their own ways to lives overshadowed by fear and silence.

Ruta Sepetys has been referred to as a “cross over” author whose books are read by both young adults and adults, and this could certainly be the case with The Fountains of Silence. The style of writing is more solemn and mature, and the plot is more slow-build than action-packed, but her ability to fill the story with underlying tension, vivid imagery, and meaningful characters makes this a novel everyone would enjoy.

If you like historical fiction, or if you want to try something new like I did, check out The Fountains of Silence when it comes out on October 1st. You can find it on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.


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