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.

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