THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE by Ruta Sepetys. New York: Penguin Young Readers, 2019. 512p. ISBN 978-0593115251 hc. $18.99 Gr. 9-12 YA FIC
A master of historic fiction,
Sepetys, writes for young adults who have enough life experience to tackle the philosophical,
political, and ethical issues found in her well-researched books. Readers are
taken back to Madrid, Spain in 1957, when General Francisco Franco ruled the
country through an oppressive dictatorship.
Daniel Matheson, an oil-rich Texan with aspirations to become a
photojournalist, visits Madrid with his parents to share a cultural experience
of Spain, the birthplace of his mother.
He soon meets Ana, a housekeeper in the luxurious Hotel Castellana Hilton,
where she hopes to work her way up the career ladder – at least as far as women
can go in a fascist regime. Even though
a relationship between Ana and Daniel would mean termination from her job,
Daniel persists and meets her in her neighborhood, where he also meets her
brother, Rafael, a butcher who dreams of being a bullfighter. After listening to Rafael’s history, including
his early years in a boy’s home after the Spanish revolution, Daniel has many
questions about why the guards prevent him from taking photos of certain places and events in the city. Rafael’s story intertwines with that of his
cousin, Puri, who cares for babies at an adoption facility. There a mystery about the babies dropped off
anonymously, and later adopted out to families “in favor” of government policies. In contrast to the
pull of passion between Ana and Daniel, readers will be shocked by the level of
corruption found in Spain during Franco's control of the government.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI