Summary and book reviews of The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence

by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys X
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2019, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2020, 512 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray comes a gripping, unforgettable portrait of love, silence, and secrets amidst a Spanish dictatorship.

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into the country under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography--and fate--introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War--as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence--inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.

Includes vintage media interstitials, oral history commentary, photos, and more.

Chapter 1

They stand in line for blood.


June's early sun blooms across a string of women waiting patiently at el matadero. Fans snap open and flutter, replying to Madrid's warmth and the scent of open flesh wafting from the slaughterhouse.


The blood will be used for morcilla, blood sausage. It must be measured with care. Too much blood and the sausage is not firm. Too little and the sausage crumbles like dry earth.


Rafael wipes the blade on his apron, his mind miles from morcilla. He turns slowly from the line of customers and puts his face to the sky.


In his mind it is Sunday. The hands of the clock touch six.


It is time.

The trumpet sounds and the march of the pasodoble rolls through the arena.

Rafael steps onto the sand, into the sun.

He is ready to meet Fear.

In the center box of the bullring sits Spain's dictator, Generalísimo Francisco Franco. They call him El Caudillo — leader of armies, hero by the grace of God. Franco looks down to the ring. Their eyes meet.

You don't ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The opening line of the book is: "They stand in line for blood." We are quickly introduced to the el matadero, where Rafa serves blood to masses of women, and to the concept of the matador ring, the image of Franco, the cruelty of the Guardia Civil, and the concept of taking a stand against fear. How did the tone Sepetys strikes here prepare you for the rest of the book?
  2. Sepetys uses short chapters to keep the pacing tight and handle multiple settings. How did this reading experience (of moving quickly from scene to scene) affect the emotional impact of the book for you?
  3. The historical records and remembrances that Sepetys places throughout the novel serve to create a larger context for what the characters are experiencing. Did you ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ruta Sepetys is an author unafraid of tackling disturbing but little-known episodes in history, from Lithuanian exiles under Stalin, to the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy. Her exploration into the effects on children and teens of the Spanish Civil War and the decades-long reign of Francisco Franco will be a welcome addition for educators in search of an entertaining and accessible way to explain something so nearly inexplicable...continued

Full Review (659 words).

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(Reviewed by Catherine M Andronik).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Though Ana and her family endure traumatic, tragic events, The Fountains of Silence offers a lighter reading experience than the gut-punch Sepetys delivered in her award-winning previous novel, Salt to the Sea, which sometimes felt too painful to read...[The novel] speaks truth to power, persuading future rulers to avoid repeating the crimes of the past.

NPR
I can't say I was surprised that this book is so good. Salt to the Sea is similarly consuming, but in many ways, The Fountains of Silence is more emotionally accessible...[it] manages to be a story that is deeply concerned with morality and justice without ever feeling preachy.

BookPage (starred review)
With The Fountains of Silence, Sepetys has once again written gripping historical fiction with great crossover appeal to adult readers, combining impeccable research with sweeping storytelling.

Shelf Awareness (starred review)
In a gut-wrenching YA novel about the terrible destructiveness of secrets untold, master storyteller Ruta Sepetys reveals the dark underbelly of 1950s Spain under dictator Franco.

School Library Journal
This multidimensional story contains a rich cast of characters with different perspectives, vivid descriptions, romance, and cultural insights. Multiple narrative threads are skillfully woven together...This well-crafted story sheds light on a disturbing chapter of 20th century history and helps break the silence and expose the tragedy of 300,000 children adopted or stolen during Franco's rule.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Sepetys skillfully conveys Spain's atmosphere under Franco...This gripping, often haunting historical novel offers a memorable portrait of fascist Spain.

Booklist (starred review)
[Sepetys] tells a moving story made even more powerful by its placement in a lesser-known historical moment. Captivating, deft, and illuminating historical fiction.

Reader Reviews

Vivian H.

Beautiful and Disturbing
This beautiful novel provides some insights into the Franco regime post WWII, about which I had very little awareness. My familiarity with Franco was essentially limited to the fact he was a dictator and that SNL repeatedly reported that ‘Francisco ...   Read More
Bob

Good
It was good.
Becky H

An excellent book
Sepetys writes teens beautifully and accurately. Her teens are impetuous, naïve, full hearted, empathetic, selfish, quick thinking and foolhardy. THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE tells of teens caught up in the tyrannical world of General Francisco Franco in...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Robert Capa

Black and white photo of troops storming the beach at Normandy by Robert CapaIn The Fountains of Silence, Daniel is a budding photojournalist who admires the work of Robert Capa.  Capa, born Endre Erno Friedmann in Hungary, experienced first-hand the rise of Hitler and Nazism. After studying photography in Paris and meeting kindred spirit Gerda Pohorylle (better known by her pseudonym Gerda Taro), he emigrated to the United States and changed his name to Robert Capa. For a while, Capa and Taro produced photographs together under his name, but Taro eventually wanted individual credit for her work. In his short lifetime (he died at age 40), Capa revolutionized wartime photography. He was the only civilian photographer at Omaha Beach on D-Day; some of the most iconic pictures of that event were shot by him, and he...

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