By Edith Bachmann
In October, Ruta Sepetys published her newest historical fiction novel, The Fountains of Silence, and it does not disappoint. The story begins in 1957 Spain, where the country is still feeling the effects of the Spanish Civil War which ravaged their lives and put General Franco in charge of Spain. Daniel Matheson is a young man from Texas who travels to Spain with his oil tycoon father and his Spanish mother. However, Daniel does not want to be an oilman for his passions lie in photography; in Spain, he hopes to find the perfect shot for the photography competition back in the US… but he’ll find much more than that. The book also weaves together the stories of Ana and her family. Ana is a young woman who works as a maid at the luxury Castellana Hilton hotel and soon befriends Daniel. However, Ana harbors many secrets from her past. Will she be able to ever open up to Daniel? Unlike the other main characters in the story, Ana’s cousin Puri supports Franco and what he is doing for Spain. Puri, or Purificacíon is a nun at the Inclusa, a home for orphaned babies and young children. The Sisters work to get the children adopted by pro-Franco families. Meanwhile, Ana’s brother Rafa is best friends with Fuga, who has big dreams to become a matador. While Spain presents a picturesque view to the outside world, there is something darker lurking beneath the surface.
Ruta Sepetys is known for her work as a historical fiction author who does extensive research. She is a master storyteller whose works deal with lesser-known historical events and stories. Sepetys was meticulous in her research, making her book much more interesting and layered. She has found a way to incorporate actual quotes from different newspapers, ambassadors, presidents, and other people of the time period. She captures a vivid image of post-war Spain. In the resources section, she discusses how she went on multiple research trips to Spain and talked to people who were there; she determined that the only way she could paint a true picture of the time and place was to write it from the outside looking in.
Sepetys has also created a fantastic cast of characters, each one with depth and their own stories to tell. Like in Salt to the Sea, her strength in creating a strong full cast of characters shines through. The diversity, especially including the perspective of Puri, adds another layer to the novel. The romance she creates is real and tangible. It doesn’t seem out of place or unnecessary. In general, her plot is very well thought out. Sepetys is amazing with creating many stories and then weaving them together piece by piece until there is a magnificent book.
The Fountains of Silence is a phenomenal novel that deserves a spot on reading lists everywhere. The characters, the plot, and the writing are amazing. And even more importantly, this book is packed with emotion and truly touches one’s heart. Sepetys shows her mastery over making the reader feel something with each scene she writes. I for one look forward to reading Ruta Sepetys’ next book, whatever it might be about.
If you enjoy The Fountains of Silence, you may also like:
- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
- Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón