Ruta Sepetys has a way with historical fiction that is almost unparalleled. She takes forgotten, ignored, and dismissed stories and she brings them to the forefront of our minds. I have always admire this about her writing and it’s what keeps bringing me to pick up her books.
Fountains of Silence takes place in post World War Two Spain with General Franco’s Christian, fascist dictatorship in full swing. We follow several perspectives: Daniel, an American tourist who’s mother is from Spain; Ana, a girl working at the hotel that Daniel is staying at and whose parents were murdered for being against Franco; Rafa, Ana’s brother whose desire to leave the slums is his main focus; and Puri, Ana’s cousin who works at the catholic orphanage and is beginning to question the integrity of said orphanage.
As with many of Sepetys’ books, the amount of characters and how their stories overlap and interweave can be confusing on paper and in an explanation, but whilst reading, it’s easy to keep them separated. Another reason I think she’s an amazing author. Because I know that second paragraph is muddled and confusing but that’s what’s going on so I’m keeping it!
Our primary focus is Ana and Daniel, they are also the romantic pairing of the story. Despite the romance being an integral part to the story and the plot, there is so much more going on than just a love story. If you’re not familiar with Franco – not a surprise since I don’t believe he was covered at all in my schooling – his dictatorship was heavily criticized by America post mortem. It created a wider gap between the wealthy and the poor, imprisoned and murdered thousands of people who did not support Franco, and did not boost Spain’s economy like he postured (are you getting déjà vu?).
This story requires your emotional endurance. It’s sad, very sad, for a long time. It’s beautifully told, has compelling characters, but the action is lacking a little. That’s my biggest critique, I didn’t realize how far I had gotten into the book (I listened on audio thanks to Scribd) and I was about 2/3 into the book while thinking “when’s the action going to start?” This is a character driven book. There’s a bit of a mystery, but I felt that it was easy to solve and maybe that’s just my overall experience with history and oppressive regime “moves” but it could also just be that it wasn’t meant to be super mysterious. Regardless, the characters are the driving force behind your reading.
I will always pick up the new Ruta Sepetys novel. Her stories are so compelling and they show such a wide range of the human experience. If you like character driven, historical novels, pick this up. It will not disappoint you.