The Fountains of Silence by Ruth Sepetys

The setting – Madrid 1957 under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Madrid, while beautiful, conceals dark secrets. Tourists and foreign businessman come to the city, eager to explore but also to seek other opportunities. Daniel Matheson, the eighteen-year-old son of a Texas oil tycoon, arrives in the city hoping to photograph the area and people. While he was raised in Texas’s upper echelons, he always felt a bit out of place, with many Texans deeming his Spanish mother “too exotic.” The information Daniel is told about Madrid and life in Spain begins to unravel as he takes more and more photos, which seem to hold a different narrative. Soon he meets Ana, a maid at the hotel he is staying at with him family.

Ana lives a very different life than Daniel could ever understand – her father was killed and her mother was arrested and imprisoned for their part in the resistance to Franco’s regime. Ana is shy and quiet because silence is the most effective method of survival in a society riddled with fear. The less people make noise, the better.

Fountains of Silence is historical fiction at its finest – well-researched, incredibly detailed, with characters you invest in. It holds a mystery and draws attention to events that, personally, I knew little about. While this a long book, it moves quickly and is an accessible read. Between chapters, there are excerpts of news articles covering the events in the books, which makes the read even more chilling. I chose this as my Book of the Month pick awhile back to learn more about 1950s Spain, and I’m glad I picked it up because it was profoundly informative and left me thinking “I had no idea…”  Sepetys’ writing is fluid andsparkles, highlighting the need for justice without imposing a twenty-first century lens on events of the past. You feel Ana’s fear and understand Daniel’s naiveté and feel sickened by the dictatorship. It is an engrossing read and I recommend.

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