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As with all of Ruta's books, this one is emotional, SO hard to put down, and important in shedding light on a tumultuous era of history.
2020 was a hard year for me, as I’m sure it was for most people. Needless to say, despite what I told myself in March, I faced a huge reading slump. Outside of school books, I read very, very, very little. Books just didn’t excite me the way that they used to.
So when I say that I, as a full time high school IB Diploma student, read this 400 page book in two days, I need you to understand what that means for this book.
After reading Salt to the Sea a few years ago, I knew of the talent that Sepetys had for spinning tales that not only taught me about the little known historical events and made me love the characters, but also made me feel for the characters. And here, she does it again. Before, I had known nothing about Franco. But now I feel as if I lived my past life during this time period. In most books, I feel like we understand what is happening. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. But in The Fountains of Silence I really was there. The grandeur of the Hilton, the sadness and strength in Vallecas. I kid you not, there was a minute I’m pretty sure I smelled Madrid. That’s how much I felt like I was there.
Centered in Madrid in 1957, The Fountains of Silence follows a maid at the luxurious Hilton Hotel, Ana, and her family as they live under Franco’s intensely Catholic dictatorship. Additionally, it follows aspiring photographer Daniel, visiting with his wealthy oil family from Texas, as he explores his Spanish roots. Sepetys, in an unexpected but beautiful move, also includes primary sources throughout the book in reference to this time in history. As a student, this is something that I deeply respect and admire her for.
Perfect for all readers (but especially Sepetys fans and those looking for a little escapism) and set at a cornerstone in Franco’s dictatorship, this is a beautiful story about people and the connections we make.
I was in the mood to read some historical fiction (which wasn't a common occurrence, but now I have a new appreciation for historical fic). I happened to pick up this book, because I knew embarrassingly little about Francoist Spain. And, wow, I really got more than I asked for! Sepetys effortlessly handles a great number of conflicts, plot lines, and multiple POVs while also educating readers about the hellish life for Spanish Republicans who lived during Franco's rule. There was even an added element of suspense during the first half of the book, dealing with the orphanage and dead babies. I will be reading more Sepetys books, no doubt about that. Definitely would recommend to historical fiction readers, but, really, this book has a little something for everyone, so don't miss out!
Ruta Sepetys always delivers in her books, and this one definitely doesn't disappoint. It is interesting, romantic, and educational. I learned so much and never wanted to put it down! Highly recommend The Fountains of Silence!
Enjoyed this book and didn't want to put it down. I found it had more of a storyline than 'Between Shades of Gray' and 'Salt to the Sea'. Still a sad book when you realize the suffering of so many. Written with a lot of POVs but I think that helped to see huge gap between wealth and poverty.
Franco’s Spain, 1957: a land where bullfighters are the ultimate heroes, where women understand that their purpose in life is to obey, remain silent and above all ask no questions. Where the overarching force is that of miedo: fear. A fear that lingers in the blood; where republicans surviving after the civil war are enslaved and their offspring are removed to be ‘rehabilitated’ — but remain ever suspect. These are people who have come to understand the nature of fear in ways that most of us are unlikely to know:
”Bravery and stupidity are sometimes interchangeable.”
”Yes! But fear brings dimension to our lives. Without fear we will never meet courage.”
They have learned that there are far worse things than death and that having faced it all, one’s purpose in life transcends fear of death:
Fuga stares into the cracked mirror. He is not frightened.
He is not frightened of the bulls. He is not frightened of the breeders.
He is not frightened of the Crows. He is not frightened of poverty or hardship.
He is not frightened of Franco.
Fuga's death came as a child, at the hands of a monster in the boys’ home.
He stares at his reflection and begins the internal conversation.
It is impossible to kill a man who is already dead. The mirror is broken, but the reflection is intact. Resurrection is impossible, Huérfano. You fight for the forgotten, the abused, the hungry and the unwanted. You fight for your one and only friend, just as he fights for you.
Into this airless, closed society, one ruled by an ever-present dictator in partnership with the Catholic Church, where most people struggle to eke out a bare existence, arrive American tourists with their dollars, their profligate lifestyle and their disregard for most of what they see. Not a very promising scenario for an enjoyable novel. But out of this Sepetys not only creates and slowly untangles a web of secrets but also extracts an excellent love story.
Her research of Spain’s fascist regime has been extensive, lending her story a highly convincing tone. All of the characters ring true. Perhaps what makes it so compelling is the stark contrast in state of mind between the fear-ridden Spanish populace and the casually carefree Americans.
[On a final note, I was struck by the significant part played by photographs in this story, and how a brilliantly executed photo can convey so much depth of meaning, transcending the most carefully chosen words. By a stroke of serendipity, I just now happened to be studying (those who have read it will understand my choice of that word) Langston Hughes’ brief, brilliant poem “My People” as conveyed in pictures in his collaboration with photographer Charles R Smith Jr. It would require a book of prose ten times as thick to achieve what those two gentlemen do in just 30 magnificent pages.]
As she did in "Salt to the Sea", Sepetys has seamlessly integrated a fictional human drama into a solidly drawn historical setting. Well done.
I had high expectations for this one, and boy, did it meet them.
This is a story of Spain in 1957: a country still under the control of dictator Franco and a country that provides very different experiences to different people. Daniel Matheson is a Texan, an aspiring photojournalist on a trip with his parents; Ana works at the hotel, providing services to its guests. Along with a cast of characters that include Ana's brother Rafa, her cousin Puri, American party boy Nick, weathered journalist Ben, and so many others, Dan will uncover what Spain is to its people, and how - or if - he can shed light on the dark inner workings of the country he grows to love.
As with all of Ruta's books, this one is emotional, SO hard to put down, and important in shedding light on a tumultuous era of history. I had no idea about the history of Spain that is discussed here; Franco's dictatorship and its effects on Spain's people is very much swept over in our education system, and it's both painful and enlightening to begin to crack it open here. The subplot about the stolen babies is horrific, and the way these characters live in such a brutal world and deal with the kinds of consequences that would have been very real is just gut wrenching.
What I really love about how Ruta writes is how engaging she makes her words. The short chapters make this feel like it flies by, even clocking in at almost 500 pages. Skipping from character to character so quickly could seem jarring but, given their proximity to one another and how their stories connect, it just kept me even more into the story and wanting to find out what would happen next.
The characters are the heart of this one, as with all of Ruta's books. Ana is the absolute SWEETEST human I've encountered in fiction in a very long time, and her and Dan and their budding relationship had me swooning multiple times, but this was cut by the very real tension that Ruta built into their world. The reality of Julia and Antonio and their struggle to move up in the world, Rafa and Fuga and the tragedy of life as a survivor of a boys' home, all of it was just so heartbreaking. Every character here felt real for so many different reasons; even Buttons/Carlito the concierge has such a presence in my mind.
The reason I take half a star off is because this felt slow-moving at times, for maybe the first third. I was into it, but I didn't fully invest until after, when I finally figured out exactly what was going on and who I was supposed to root for. It was all fascinating, all interesting as all hell, but I wanted to be head-over-heels for it sooner than I was.
But that said, read this book. It's a peephole into an era of history that I have never come across otherwise in the literary world. I really, really enjoyed it.
I went to see author Ruta Sepetys speak at the Texas Book Festival in 2019 because I loved her book Between Shades of Gray so much. Of course she primarily spoke about her newest book, The Fountains of Silence, and what she had to say intrigued me.
My husband lived as a very small child in Spain for a couple of years with his family. His parents speak fondly of their time there and how safe they felt even though (and maybe because) Franco was still in power. He died shortly after they left. I sensed that there was an element of American privilege in their experiences. I'm not denying the validity of their perception, but as expatriates, I thought they were probably protected from the reality of most Spaniards.
My husband and I visited Spain ourselves in 2010 and loved every minute of our visit. I'm a huge guidebook nerd, so I started learning a bit more about the history of Franco's rule while I was researching our visit. I learned enough to know that it was a pretty dark time, but I didn't actively pursue any further knowledge.
I was intrigued when Ms. Sepetys started speaking of exactly how hard life was for most Spaniards during Franco's reign. His followers were okay, but families who had members who had resisted him in the Spanish Civil War were punished for generations. Most horrifying of all, mothers were told that their babies had died shortly after birth when in reality, the children were adopted out to loyal families or foreigners. Franco's regime wanted to ensure that the babies grew up with "good," i.e. loyal, parents. Everyone was so afraid of Franco's Guardia Civil that they rarely openly questioned what was going on and only started speaking of it years after Franco's death.
The Fountains of Silence does a wonderful job of presenting the dichotomy of the face that Spain presented to the world and the underlying darkness of the 1950s. By starting from the point of view of Daniel, a wealthy Texas oil baron's son staying in the American hotel that literally used to be a castle, readers are taken from the glitz and glamour and luxury and slowly led to see that everything is not as it seems.
The point of view switches around so that we eventually see how hard life was for the other main character, Ana, a young Spanish woman working as a maid in the hotel. Her parents were tortured and killed after the Civil War because they wanted better schools that were independent from the Catholic church. Ana and her siblings are terrified of drawing attention to themselves and meeting a similar fate. They live in a hovel and have big dreams but no real hope of ever pursuing them.
There is a lot to discuss and think about in this book. It would be an excellent choice for a book group. Whether you read it alone or with a group, just do yourself a favor and read it.
A Great Books for Great Kids staff pick 2020. Madrid in the 1950s is a playground for rich American tourists, but terrible secrets are hiding underneath Spain’s sunny exterior. Daniel, the son of a rich oil tycoon, is a budding photographer looking for his next photo project, but he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Ana, a beautiful maid at his hotel with secrets of her own. Grades 7-8.
In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, an American boy meets a Spanish girl and learns what is and isn't possible.
Another beautiful novel by Ruta Sepetys. While I didn't love it as much as Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray, it was still beautifully written and informative. I had no idea about the Spanish dictatorship and the struggles and barriers faced by the people of Spain. I love how Sepetys shines light on yet another forgotten injustice. I would definitely recommend this book!
The Fountains of Silence is about Texan teen Daniel visiting Francisco Franco's Spain in the 1950's. Franco is a dictator who needs business men to invest in his country so he opens it to Americans. Daniel visits with his parents to see his mother's birthplace. Ana works at the hotel Daniel and his parents are staying in and is assigned to their rooms. Daniel and Ana quickly become friends but Ana is guarded with him. Her family were Republicans, those who were against Franco's rein, and now are either shunned to live as second class citizens or died horrific deaths. Daniel quickly learns that Spain isn't what the government likes to show and there are secrets everyone is hiding.
I was fascinated with this novel as it's something I have never really learned of this time in history in school. I knew of before, during World War II, but never afterward with Franco's dictation. I cared about the characters and wanted to know the outcome. I could tell when some things would happen and cried during some of them too.
It was a heartfelt novel set in a dark time that had family and love and exploration. A must read for historical fiction readers and lovers of Ruta Sepetys.
Yet another beautifully written and well researched novel by Ruta Sepetys. The Fountains of Silence primarily takes place in 1957, during the rule of General Francisco Franco. During this time, Spain is taking away babies of Republican families and giving them to Franco's supporters, telling their families that their babies have died. Daniel, a half-American, half-Spanish photographer is visiting Spain with his family and exploring the city with his camera. As Daniel becomes comfortable in Spain, he meets Ana, his maid at the hotel he is staying at, and the rest of her family. Daniel and Ana very quickly form a strong romantic relationship which makes for a very compelling story. Although, it soon becomes clear that Ana's family is filled with a lot of secrets, and that Daniel's photos are dangerous.
I learned so much from this book that is not taught in traditional school. A lot of Spain's history has been concealed because of how controversial it is. Luckily, Sepetys has brought it back to life with a fantastic story that is filled with romance, plot twists, and the perfect amount of coincidence. My favorite part of the novel is the resilient romance between Ana and Daniel as well as how perfectly the story comes full circle in the end. I quickly became quite attached to all of the characters and the troubles they face. I also really appreciate the historical documents that Sepetys included between chapters. However, the story did end a bit abruptly after some key information was revealed without much elaboration or details in the last few pages.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read about the hidden secrets of history especially when there is an inspiring and captivating story to explain them.
Ruta Sepetys has a gift for telling the stories that need to be told and shedding light on the dark pockets of our past. This historical fiction takes us directly into the fear of living under Franco in a dictatorship and is brilliantly told from the outside looking in. For westerners, it is hard to understand and Ruta Sepetys deftly navigates this by juxtaposing a young photo journalist who has lived a rather spoiled life as he gets to know the people of Madrid and try to understand what their reality looks like.
I held on to each page with fear that something atrocious was just about to happen, and I supposed that was the point of her writing, because the Spainiards live as if something atrocious has happened in their past and is due to catch up to them over any misspoken word, any misstep.
I was happy that this book had mostly happy resolutions in the end, as Ruta Sepetys is not known for that.
I highly recommend this author for mature teens and adults.
Excellent Read. Love historical fiction and this book does not disappoint. Good for young adults and old ones too!
Transports you to Spain in the 1950s. Sepetys is one of my favorite authors and this read does not disappoint.
Historical fiction set in Madrid, Spain, a summer in 1955 and then 18 years later, after the Franco years. The stories follow teenagers—both American and Spanish—navigating the restrictive lives led by those children born to Franco’s opposition and coming to terms with random injustice.
Funny that I finished this YA Special Edition the same day I was asked to answer a Penguin Random House Opinionator survey about YA books even if I was very much a grown-up. It made me think what about the book made it a ‘crossover’ title—a good read from high school on. Liked it for the history, the inherent decency of so many characters, the secrets and silences that kept me turning pages. Spot on.
Excellent read for historical fiction fans like myself. Ruta Sepetys dives straight into another dark period in history. I totally recommend this book and also the author's other books such as Salt to the Sea and Ashes in the Snow.
Fascinating look at Spain under Franco. Serious stuff...but wrapped up in a sweet love story.
Well-tread teen "forbidden romance" fare with the welcome addition of the tragic history of Francoist Spain in the 50s. The story was highlighted by insights into a Catholic Church and state run baby black market story. The supposed romance of bullfighting is also highlighted but doesn't quite get the exposure that would've improved the novel.
"Every nation has scars and hidden history. When stories of historical conflict are read and discussed, we have an opportunity to be united in study and remembrance. In that way, books join us togther as a global reading community, but also a global human community, striving to learn from the past." -- Ruta Sepetys
It is the commitment Sepetys has to transporting us into a piece of history that shines through so brightly in each and every book. Her extensive research (eight years for this title) results in a narrative so soundly rooted in the facts that you expect to see a stamp in your passport. Interspersed throughout are quotes from historical archives that set the tone and add historical perspective. We care deeply about Ana, Daniel and Puri and the secrets they have to keep, discover, or forget. Each one of them holds a thread that is woven into the overall narrative. There are no easy solutions to their struggles, but there is hope. Contains an impressive list of source material and a helpful glossary.