Fiction, January 2020

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. October 1, 2019. Philomel Books, 495 p. ISBN: 9780399160318.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

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.

Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1957 and aspiring photographer Daniel Matheson is visiting Spain with his Texas oil tycoon father. Daniel is eager for the opportunity to flesh out his portfolio for a photography contest—what would be more prize-­worthy than photos of daily life in notoriously secretive Spain?—but he gets repeated warnings, some quite aggressive, against looking too closely. Another thing Daniel doesn’t bank on is Ana, an arrestingly beautiful maid at the Castellana Hilton, where he’s staying with his parents. As their affection deepens, so, too, do their differences: Ana, daughter of executed anti-Fascists, lives a tightly constrained existence, and Daniel has unprecedented freedom in her country and can’t quite wrap his head around the danger he puts her in. In another meticulously researched novel, Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2015) offers a captivating glimpse into Franco’s Spain, a region awash in secrets and misinformation. As Sepetys slowly unspools hard truths about the era, such as the prevalence of babies stolen from poor, Republican families, the facts become increasingly impossible to ignore, both for the reader and for Daniel. The romance ultimately takes center stage, but the troubling events in the margins add terrifyingly high stakes to Daniel and Ana’s relationship. For all her extensive, careful research (evident in the back matter), Sepetys doesn’t overwhelm readers with facts; rather, she tells a moving story made even more powerful by its placement in a lesser-known historical moment. Captivating, deft, and illuminating historical fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards. The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

About the Author

Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren’t able to tell their story. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over fifty countries and have received over forty literary prizes.

Her website is www.rutasepetys.com

Teacher Resources

The Fountains of Silence on Common Sense Media

The Fountains of Silence Reading Group Questions

Around the Web

The Fountains of Silence on Amazon

The Fountains of Silence on Barnes and Noble

The Fountains of Silence on Goodreads

The Fountains of Silence on LibraryThing

The Fountains of Silence Publisher Page

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