Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Fountains of Silence

Rate this book
A portrait of love, silence, and secrets under 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 Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an 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 difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

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

512 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2019

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author and Winner of the Carnegie Medal.
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren't able to tell their story. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over sixty countries and have received over forty literary prizes.

For more information:

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
27,080 (47%)
4 stars
22,373 (39%)
3 stars
6,428 (11%)
2 stars
936 (1%)
1 star
299 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,769 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,543 reviews24.6k followers
September 8, 2019
Ruta Sepetys paints a richly descriptive and historically detailed picture of post war Spain under the fascist dictator, General Franco. It is 1957, and Spain is desperate for money and to facilitate this, is welcoming tourists to the country. 18 year old American Daniel Matheson is staying at a luxury hotel with his family, his father is an oil tycoon looking to make a deal with Franco's regime. Spain is the country of Daniel's mother, and he is looking to explore it, with every intent of looking beneath the official versions of Madrid. Whilst his father wants him to work for the business, Daniel has other ideas, he wants to be a photographer, and has made plans to study photography at college. Ana is the young, bright and beautiful hotel maid charged with looking after the Matheson family and meeting their every need. This is a well researched multilayered story of David and Ana, love, identity, heartbreak, and the walls of silence behind which are hidden the true horrors of Franco's Spain.

Rafa, Ana's brother remembers the family, and its tragic past, his parents opposition to Franco and their death. He works hard, although he still goes hungry, at his two jobs at the slaughterhouse and the graveyard, with his friend, Fuga, an intense force of nature, with dreams of becoming a famous bullfighter and protecting the children. Ana's cousin, Puri, works at the Catholic Adoption Centre. Ben is an American journalist who urges David to capture the Spain beyond the official version through the lens of his camera, deploying angles that tell the truth, the varied stories that lay beneath the surface. As David connects with an Ana with her dreams of travelling and escape, she begins to slowly entrust him with the inner secrets of a country where people live in fear and terror. However, she puts at risk her job, love and freedom, she has family responsibilities, a job that is essential in keeping her family going.

The stories of the host of characters interconnect to uncover Spain's secret history under Franco, and the fall out from the Spanish Civil War and its repercussions that continued into the 1950s. Sepetys writes with humanity and compassion about this dark historical period, the vast swathe of untold suffering, pain, despair and the tyranny of a repressive regime. This is brilliant immersive historical fiction of a brutal period of history that I have long been fascinated and interested by. This is for those who are interested in this period of Spanish history and those who enjoy well written and informative historical fiction. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Random House Children's for an ARC.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,739 followers
June 22, 2020
Ruta Sepetys can tell a story – that is really all you need to know!

Some authors write one great book and then spend the rest of their career trying to achieve the same level of greatness. Not Sepetys – she hits it out of the park every time! If you loved and were moved by her other books, you will definitely love and be moved by this one as well.

This time the story takes place is 1960s Spain during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Overall, Spain is a country of which I do not have a lot of historical knowledge. The story pulled me into this world and did a great job of both teaching and entertaining me. I have already been looking up a lot about Spain during this time period, so it was successful in encouraging me to want more!

In the afterward to this book, Sepetys mentions that while she is a historical fiction writer, it is important to her that her readers go out and find out more about the places, time periods, and events that she writes about. I think that is great for a couple of reasons. Not only is she encouraging her readers – many of whom are teenagers reading this because it is a “YA” novel – to learn more, but she is also willing to put her writing to the test against the facts. I have read several historical fiction novels where it felt like facts were sacrificed for the sake of story. It cannot be easy to tell a fiction story set in non-fiction world. I would be nervous about screwing it up the whole time. But, Sepetys not only repeatedly takes the risk, she repeatedly does an excellent job with it!

Side note – I am not sure if it was intentional or not, but this book reminded me a lot of Hemingway. It could just be that The Sun Also Rises takes place in Spain and has a few similarities in the setting, people, and activities. But, whether or not it was intentional, I kept thinking of Hemingway so I figured I would mention it.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,509 reviews31k followers
March 21, 2022
‘we have only died if you forget us.’
- anonymous epitaph, spanish civil war mass grave

i am never not amazed each time i pick up a RS book.

she has such a powerful and genuine way of taking forgotten stories and giving them life again. humanity radiates from every page of this book, making daniel and anna and their families feel like real people who suffered real things.

and because of that, i wouldnt hesitate to recommend any of RSs book for someone looking to get into the historical fiction genre. but this one in particular, even if it is longer and a little different from her previous books, is a great place to start because of how it shows courage, and integrity, and does a great job at teaching the reader and helping the world not forget.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,132 reviews39.3k followers
August 3, 2020
Hey friends, I’m so excited to read a story about story an emotional, heart wrenching story takes place in Madrid in late 50’s when General Franco’s dictatorship takes over and rules the city! I’m taking small bites from patatas bravas, empanadillas accompanied by a big pitcher of Sangria (my new decision, tasting the foods where the book’s story is told to have a better focus on my book! I also ate beef stroganoff and had several vodka shots when I’m reading “Bear and Nightingale series”. Maybe because of that I was so enthusiastic to write those reviews. Smirnoff dearest might have invaded my seat in front of my computer. By the way I did something smart and for reducing the take out expanses, I charged my husband –hourly paid by 2 Belgian chocolates- So everybody is happy!)

So here we go: I love Ruta Sepety’s writing and enjoyed her previous works so I was so sure this book wouldn’t disappoint me! Buuuuutttt… I have to ask those questions urgently to the author:

Me-But grandmother hmmm I mean: dear author, why so many POVS this book have?

Imaginary author/ traitor wolf-The better you get used to read books with so many characters. Just like you loved so much with “Lady in the lake”

Me:-Oh come on! There may be even postman and milkman’s POVS on that book. And second question is: Dear author, why this book is not emotional and stunning enough even you write about heavy subjects including kidnapping, prostitution… Why I didn’t get the edginess and heart-wrecking moments that touch my feelings?

Imaginary author/ traitor wolf- Such a spoiled, cry baby! If you want to cry so much, why don’t you read Kristin Hannah, Amy Harmon, Heather Morris, Georgia Hunter, Martha Hall Kelly?

Me: And last question, dear author, why this book’s pacing is SOOOOOOOO SLOOWWWWWW SOOOOOOOO BORRRRIIIINGGGGGG!

(I didn’t hear the imaginary answer! The last thing I heard was my own snoring! If you read “Goldfinch”, “Imaginary Friend”, “Ninth House” and 200 pounds weighted Stephen King’s books at the same month, it is normal to suffer from exhaustion!)

As soon as I woke up, I read the last chapter with all strength I could muster. I’m so sorry to admit but I didn’t like this book so much. I wish the story could be simpler, less complicating and told by the POVS of ONLY ANA AND DANIEL! (It took me at least 100 pages to find out, Daniel is one of the main characters, really?)

Do we have to read Ana’s family members’ detailed stories? Less characters and narrators with emitted 100-150 pages, strengthen with more action, heart throbbing scenes and more romantic, emotional parts, this book could be amazing! From Hemingway’s amazing books we know about the ruling term of Franco was bloodier, more violent than described this book. With its nearly 26,000 political prisoners had been locked and self -sufficiency economy policy isolated Spain from the other European countries. Let’s not forget his creation of vast secret police network to spy on citizens.

So I was expecting edgier, harsher, more realistic page-turner but the result didn’t satisfy me!
I know that most of the readers loved this book and I will win wear my big crown in the minority palace but maybe I wasn’t in the mood to read some slow burn historical fiction with too much POVS! Who am I kidding? That was not about the mood. I know myself, slowness, too much POVS and lack of action never works with me!

Profile Image for Emily May.
1,946 reviews292k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 10, 2019
I'm not going to rate or review this. I've only liked one of the three Sepetys books I've read in the past, but I was really hoping a book on Spain under Franco would be the equalizer. It wasn't to be. I'm just not a fan of the way the author jumps very quickly between multiple POVs. I feel so detached from the stories. Just not for me.
Profile Image for Danielle.
792 reviews387 followers
March 19, 2021
I’m going to be honest in saying, I went into this with extremely high expectations. ‘Salt to the Sea’ made my ‘COUNTDOWN: The Best Books I’ve Read In 2018’ top five list. I adored that book and cried buckets throughout. 😍 So, I assumed I’d get the same feels from this one. I’ll start by saying, I love that this author educates us with her historical fiction. 🧐 This sheds some light on Spain’s experience of dictatorship in the 50’s, a topic most Americans (like me) are not too familiar with. It’s heartbreaking, of course, to read about the struggles. This book had a lot going on... orphans, church, poverty, bull fighting, grave digging, oil tycoons, photography, romance, mystery... it was a great story and book... it was just... a lot of things tackled in one book. 😉❤️📚
Profile Image for Nicole.
718 reviews1,787 followers
June 8, 2021
3.5 stars

The Fountains of Silence has been on my radar for a while and I’m glad I finally got the chance to read it. I certainly loved the setting! It's the first time I read about Spain in a book in those times (after the civil war), please we need more books that tell stories of the different time period that are NOT World War related! (Not taking this period lightly but we do have enough books about it for now...)

The story was cute but I was more interested in the history part than the characters themselves. My biggest issue with this book is that we have too many points of view which was annoying when listening to the audiobook since they're all read by the same person. I did not see the necessity of so many perspectives either. I had a difficult time keeping up with the multiple povs at first and somewhat made me disconnected from the characters. Maybe if the chapters weren't so short it would've worked better for the story... because just when I barely get used to a character (and not the main two; Ana and Daniel), the book moves to another person.

Other than that, The Fountains of Silence was interesting and I'm glad I finally read it. It was certainly better than I expected. It was too romance-heavy for me but I didn't mind the MCs so it was okay. I'm going to read Salt to the Sea for sure now. I didn't know if I'm doing to read it but Sepetys is a talented writer and I like her style.

Profile Image for Beverly.
785 reviews279 followers
December 29, 2019
Historical fiction at its finest, The Fountains of Silence is another stellar work from Ruth Sepetys. I really loved Salt to the Sea by her as well. This book tells the story of Francisco Franco's Spain during the 50s. Franco is a brutal dictator but he needs American business men to invest in his country, so he opens its doors to the United States. Daniel comes along with his parents to visit his mother's birthplace.

Soon, the young Texan is immersed in Spanish politics because of his love of photography. Daniel has taken a photo that the Guardia Civil thugs don't approve of and they confiscate the film. He is also becomes enamored of a lovely young Spanish girl who works at the hotel. Ana is guarded with him though and has many secrets she cannot reveal. Her family were Republicans (those who supported the democratically elected government) and are now shunned or died horrific deaths. They live as second class citizens in a divided Spain.

There are many interlocking stories told in the book, of Daniel and Ana's families, each contain a piece of the puzzle that is and was Spain.
Profile Image for human.
640 reviews959 followers
April 7, 2021
It's been three days and I've yet to consolidate my feelings on this book. Blame school. So I'm just going to flat-out type everything (oh boy) (as I usually do).

First off, we've got our delightful cast of characters. I absolutely LOVED all the characters in this book. It was lovely seeing the romance bloom between Ana and Daniel. While the characters themselves were really enjoyable to read about, I didn't get the feeling that these characters were real, like I usually do with Ruta Sepetys' book, which was a touch disappointing. I definitely think that Ana, her family, and how they had been affected by Franco could have been more elaborated upon, but it was still an interesting read nonetheless.

That brings me to the romance. I got the feeling that this book was more of a historical romance, because even though Franco was in power, the book was more heavily focused on the romance itself between Daniel and Ana. What's more, is that I got soap opera vibes from this. If you know me, or have ever read a review of mine tagged drama-to-rival-my-mothers-soaps, you'll know that I mostly hate the desi soaps my mother binges. I find the drama unnecessary, especially considering that the plot itself isn't even that great. While this book didn't start out this way, the last quarter, with everything that happens, felt very much like a soap opera. I'll admit, it was mildly entertaining, but it was very different from what I'd previously enjoyed in the author's books. The romance itself was a tad insta-love-y too, which was eh. Not too bad, but I didn't exactly love it, either.

That isn't to mention the setting/time period that this book takes place in. I hadn't truly known about Franco's occupation of Spain blame the education system, but it was really interesting to learn more about this specific time in history, and the effect that it had on countless lives. While it did feel more like a backdrop than a setting, it was eye-opening to read about a time I hadn't heard much about.

Although, then again, what do we really learn in school?


Yes, all of that needed to be included. No, it doesn't have anything to do with this book.

(Okay, this is on a completely unrelated note except not really, but I met Ruta Sepetys over Zoom on Thursday at an event. It was a really cool experience, I was super excited, and she was really nice. Definitely one of my favorite authors.)

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, even if there were some shortcomings. Will probably remain a fan of this author for, oh, hmm, eternity. Definitely an interesting read if you want to learn more about a relatively forgotten period in history, no matter how unlikely it sounds.
Profile Image for Alex's Reads & Reviews.
235 reviews12 followers
December 25, 2019
Do you realize the lengths I would go to for a copy of this book? I NEED THIS SO BADLY

Now it’s been read, and this is easily one of my favorites of the year! It’s heart-breaking, it’s romantic, it’s fun, and it’s achingly honest in a way only Sepetys can achieve. Her debut, Between Shades of Gray, is one of my all time favorites, but her last two have been slightly disappointing. This, however, is her redemption novel. Filled with intricate and real characters, historical intrigue, and lusty romance unlike any she’s attempted before, Sepetys has knocked this one out of the park.
Profile Image for Mª Carmen.
556 reviews
February 6, 2023
Segunda novela que leo de Ruta Sepetys. "Voy a traicionarte" me gustó mucho. Esta lo ha hecho incluso más.

Dice la sinopsis:
Madrid, 1957. Bajo la dictadura fascista del general Francisco Franco, España esconde un oscuro secreto. Mientras tanto, turistas y hombres de negocios extranjeros inundan España bajo la apariencia de sol y vino. Entre ellos se encuentra Daniel Matheson, de dieciocho años de edad, hijo de un magnate petrolero de Texas, que llega a Madrid con sus padres con la esperanza de conectarse con el país donde nació su madre a través de la lente de su cámara. La fotografía, y el destino, le presentan a Ana, cuyos obstáculos entrelazados de la familia revelan la persistencia de la Guerra Civil Española, así como las definiciones escalofriantes de la fortuna y el miedo. Las fotografías de Daniel lo dejan con preguntas incómodas en medio de sombras de peligro. Está respaldado en un rincón de decisiones para proteger a los que ama. Las vidas y los corazones chocan.

¿Qué me ha gustado?

El título, tan representativo de lo que ella nos retrata. El silencio de la España de la dictadura, el silencio en el que vivían los españoles de esa época.

El desarrollo de la trama. En su nota final, Ruta Sepetys nos dice que durante el proceso de creación de esta novela se preguntó qué derecho tenía a escribir una historia que no era la suya. Puede que la historia no fuera la suya, pero he reconocido la de mi país en ella. Le ha puesto corazón. Ha conseguido que me llegue y me emocione. Le agradezco a la autora el rigor, pero sobre todo, le agradezco el cariño y el respeto con que ha escrito este libro.

Se divide en dos partes de ritmo fluido escritas en tercera persona. La primera ambientada en el Madrid de 1957. Daniel Matheson, de dieciocho años y sus padres se alojan en el emblemático hotel Castellana Hilton. Un oasis americano de lujo y color en medio del Madrid gris y empobrecido de la época. La alegría, el bienestar y la libertad de los huéspedes contrasta con la miseria, las privaciones y el silencio del miedo de los empleados españoles. En este contexto, Daniel, que aspira a emular a Robert Capa, conoce a Ana, una camarera de su edad, que el hotel ha destinado al servicio de su familia. Daniel quiere fotografiar el otro Madrid, el que está más allá de lo que les muestran las guías turísticas. Será Ana quién se lo muestre y una historia de amor nacerá entre ambos.
La segunda parte transcurre dieciocho años después en 1975. Franco acaba de morir. España se prepara para entrar en un proceso de transición a la democracia. Y aquí me paro, porque al desenlace de esta historia hay que llegar sin saber nada más.
Entre capítulo y capítulo, la autora nos transcribe textos sacados de entrevistas y testimonios de políticos, diplomáticos y periodistas que visitaron o vivieron durante ese tiempo en España. Me ha gustado mucho esta inclusión. Muy ilustrativos de cómo se veían las cosas desde el exterior.

La ambientación del Madrid de la época. Los lugares, las gentes y la atmósfera de miedo que se vivía. El Madrid de los contrastes. La puerta del Sol, los jardines del Museo Sorolla, la descripción de la confitería "La Violeta", por fuera y por dentro (me visualicé comprando allí), contrapuestos a la antigua Inclusa de la calle O'Donnell, el matadero de Legazpi y la miseria del barrio de chabolas de Vallecas.

La documentación rigurosa y exhaustiva. Ocho años, le llevó a Ruta Sepetys este proceso.

Los personajes. No sabría con cuál quedarme. Daniel, es el chico texano que no ha conocido otra cosa que libertad y bienestar. Es sencillo y amable. Quiere ser fotoperiodista y busca ese conjunto de fotografías con las que ganar un concurso. En esa búsqueda de la foto se va a topar con una realidad muy diferente de la que vive en el Hilton, una realidad que sus compatriotas habían decidido no ver y en la que él sí se involucra.

Ana, es la otra cara de la moneda. Hija de intelectuales represaliados, la guerra la dejó sin padres y sin futuro. Se debate entre el miedo y la rabia, entre el silencio que la ahoga y sus ganas vivir. Aspira a poder cumplir sus sueños, a ser dueña de su propio destino, en una España, que la condenaba doblemente por su condición de mujer y de hija de republicanos.

Entre los secundarios, Julia y Rafa, los hermanos de Ana, marcados como ella por el bando en que militaron sus padres. El Fuga, amigo de penurias de Rafa, que trabaja en el cementerio y aspirante a torero. Puri, la prima de Ana, que ejerce voluntariado social en la Inclusa y la hermana Hortensia, que se encarga de dar en adopción a los niños abandonados y a los que llegaban por vías menos ortodoxas. La trama de los niños robados, que se prolongó durante décadas tiene también su reflejo en esta novela.
Mención aparte merecen Lorenza, camarera del hotel, envidiosa y cotilla, Carlitos, el botones o Miguel Mendoza, de la tienda que revela los carretes de Daniel. Sin olvidarnos de los padres de Daniel, de Shep van Dorn diplomático americano, de Nick, su hijo, de Ben, corresponsal en Madrid del New York Herald Tribune, de Paco Lobo o Max Factor, entre otros.

El final, bonito y ajustado. Coherente y creíble.

En conclusión. Una novela preciosa, bien ambientada y con buenos personajes, que refleja de maravilla la realidad de la España de 1957, esa que no querían ver los americanos de la época. Muy recomendable.
July 7, 2019

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

A while back, I read another book called Ruta Sepetys, called OUT OF THE EASY, a work of young adult historical fiction set in 1950s New Orleans. It had the potential to be an interesting book, but the lazy, meandering pace; lack of action; and reliance on an almost entirely character-driven story made for some tough readin'. I hoped that THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE, with its intriguing premise of characters struggling to exist under the militaristic dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain might be better. At the very least, it might be more action-packed.

I was wrong, on both counts.

The slow pacing and character-driven stories seem to be hallmarks of Ruta Sepetys's style, regardless of whether she's writing for an adult or a young adult audience. And even when writing about "edgy" content, like prostitution or stolen babies, her books have an overly clean, sanitized feel reminiscent of Amy Harmon's - only, she isn't the emotional storyteller that Harmon is. It's like these books were put in a juicer and everything pulpy and interesting was extracted, leaving only the inoffensive concentrate behind.

There are multiple POVs in this book - another literary technique I'm also not a fan of, which wasn't present in OUT OF THE EASY - which made this book hard to read. One of the advance readers I saw actually ended up not finishing this book because of that, and I'll be honest and admit that I considered doing the same because this book took so long to get into. Daniel is the main character, I would say, even though it takes a while to get to him. His mother is Spanish, but his father is a Texas oil baron, and he's in Spain because his dad's trying to secure a drilling deal with Franco. The other main character, the love interest, is a girl named Ana, who works in the high class hotel, the Castellana Hilton, at which Daniel and his family are staying.

Ana's family also gets POVs, primarily her brother, Rafa(el), who wants to be a bullfighter; her married sister, Julia, whose fear at challenging the system makes her more willing to play by the rules; and then Ana's cousin, Puri, who works at a Catholic adoption center with the nuns and is beginning to discover something sinister about the babies being brought into their charge. Their stories intertwine, sometimes in dull ways, sometimes in interesting ways, sometimes in irrelevant ways that feel like they're only there to bulk up the page count. Ana learns desire and rebellion; Daniel learns to confront his own privilege; there's a love story that bends and twists under pressure and strife, but doesn't break; all of this is happening under a fascist yoke, where the Guardia Civil are everywhere, and so are their plants, slowing down the inevitable influence of Western capitalism.

I ended up liking this a bit more at the end than I did at the beginning, and obviously, since I made it to the end of this nearly-500-page tome, I ended up feeling invested enough to finish. It was an OK story, but again - it felt sanitized. History is dirty and awful. I didn't really feel like the fear, paranoia, and persecution of the dictatorship was adequately captured here. Even when bad things do happen, they come across as understated. You, as the reader, are utterly numb to the stakes. It's the type of book you might encounter at a book club or bring with you on an airplane, only to leave it behind you on the seat once you've finished. I don't think this is a bad book, but it's definitely not what I want out of historical fiction, and it's cemented my suspicions that Ruta Sepetys is not an author for me.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  

2.5 to 3 stars
Profile Image for Barbara.
268 reviews205 followers
September 23, 2021
"Between 1939 and the late 1980's it is alleged that over 300,000 babies were stolen from their birth mothers and sold into adoption."

Ruta Sepetys' wonderful novel is set in 1957 in Madrid, Spain. The dictator Franco still had a stronghold on the country he seized control of as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Poverty, repression, fear, forced silence, and violence are evident to outsiders who seek to see beyond the facade this government tried to convey.

Daniel, the recent high school graduate and aspiring photographer, accompanies his parents to Madrid. His father is a very successful oil executive who has business opportunities in this country still brutalized by the war. From the day Daniel arrives in Madrid he is aware of the danger and lack of freedom. His film is confiscated by the Guardia Civil. He is repeatedly warned to be careful, to not ask questions, not go where he is not wanted. However, he continues to snap the pictures that tell the truth. Through his relationship with Ana, a maid assigned to care for his family at the luxurious Hotel Castellana Hilton, he learns the truth about living under the Franco dictatorship; the continued discrimination against the next generation of war republicans and their supporters, the need to remain silent, the stealing of children falsely called "orphan distribution", all are in contrast to the grand hotel. Are Daniel's parents aware of the baby stealing when they adopt his sister? Do we only see what we want to see?

Sepetys has woven a story about a period in Spanish history that is painful and grim, yet the resiliency and hope of the people shine through. I have read a number of books about the Spanish Civil War and the first few years of Franco's regime. The sale of stolen children, the involvement of the Catholic Church, and the willingness of greedy entrepreneurs and countries not to look beyond the fancy accommodations built to lure the powerful and wealthy were all new and alarming to me.

Between chapters of the book are period excerpts from oral interviews with U.S. ambassadors to Spain, political officers, and U.S. presidents expressing their concerns about this repressive government. An extensive bibliography and additional books for readers interested in furthering their knowledge about this period were impressive. Although the book is suggested for young adults (something I had been unaware of), it definitely is relevant and enjoyable for adults. I strongly recommend it, and I am anxious to read Salt to the Sea also written by Sepetys.

"The perfect word is like the perfect camera angle; it expresses the true nature of the situation."
Profile Image for Erin.
2,887 reviews488 followers
November 23, 2019
Ruta Septeys' latest novel takes readers to Madrid, Spain in 1957 under the vice like grip of General Francisco Franco, a fascist dictator. This is my first time reading about this period of 20th century history and I continue to be in awe of the author's talent in making the bridge between YA and general historical fiction.

If this book were to be adapted to a screen, it would have to be a television series because the author alternates between a full cast of characters (think LOST) who all eventually cross paths in the narrative. Not every reader likes this type of jumping around, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to have an author relate history.

We have the young idealist character in Daniel, a young Texan who is traveling with his American businessman father and Spanish mother. Armed with a camera, Daniel, like the reader, "wants to understand" what life is like in the real Spain not what is being advertised as a tourist destination. It is through his encounters with Ana, a young hotel employee, her family members (Julia,Antonio, Rafa, and Puri) , fellow Americans Nick Van Dorn and journalist, Ben that Daniel realizes the violence amidst a nation that is forced by its government to remain silent.

A haunting historical that finds itself automatically heading to my classroom library.

Goodreads review published 23/11/19
Profile Image for Grace (Bookworm Supreme).
210 reviews108 followers
November 21, 2022
My second book from Ruta Sepetys, and it was definitely a success!! Although it appears a little ‘boring’ and too historical from the outside, I actually found it to be a very enjoyable read! 😃😃💕💕

“I clung to books and words because, unlike people, they’d never abandon me.”

It’s kinda hard to explain what this is about, but it basically takes place in Madrid in 1957 and follows Daniel, a wealthy American visiting Spain, and Ana, part of a poor and suffering family, who works at Daniel’s hotel. As Daniel explores Spain, we learn more about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and the suffering so many people are experiencing living under Franco’s dictatorship.

“Silence has a voice of its own.”

Starting with the characters. I didn’t really expect to connect to the characters tbh, but I ended up really liking them!! 😃 Daniel and Ana, the two MCs, were both really well-developed and easy to root for throughout the story. They were both from such different backgrounds and cultures that it was so interesting having both of their POVs and seeing how their views differed.

We also had loads of side characters, like Rafa, Julia, Ben, Nick, Puri, Miguel, etc. I also liked quite a few of the side characters, Ben in particular. Seeing Daniel develop a friendship with him and Miguel was so cool! It was also interesting getting SO many POVs- like, as well as Ana and Daniel’s, we got a POV at some point from most of the significant side characters. Usually, that kinda thing doesn’t really work for me, but surprisingly it did this time! So, yeah, overall I was definitely a fan of the characters 🙌

Next, the plot. I went in kinda expecting a very specific plotline like Salt to the Sea, but the plot surprisingly felt like no plot, just vibes for quite a large bit of the book. It was just Daniel gradually seeing more and more of Spain, discovering little bits of history at a time and getting to know the characters. And that actually worked really well! Despite the plot being quite loose and meandering, the pacing was still pretty good and I was never super bored. All the tidbits of history and interesting facts throughout were fascinating, especially as I barely know anything about Spain. I really enjoyed that part of the book! 🤩🤩

“Some were desperate to remember and others were desperate to forget.”

The writing was pretty good! It’s not my favorite writing style ever, as it can be kinda choppy at times, but I do still like it. It’s pretty easy to read and not super heavy. I also feel like it was more digestible in here than it was in Salt to the Sea, which was nice! So, yeah, that was good.

Lastly, the romance. Romance was definitely a much bigger part of the story than anticipated, but I didn’t mind because Ana and Daniel were super cute together. The romance was definitely a slow burn and quite well-developed imo, so it was pretty cute to follow. I don’t think it’d wow any enormous romance readers, but I still liked it 🥰🥰

“Sometimes the truth is dangerous… But we should search for it nonetheless.”

Overall, a great read! It’s got:

✔Likeable characters
✔Cool historical setting
✔Interesting plot
✔Slowburn & cute romance (but no spice)
✔Great writing

Not quite as impactful as Salt to the Sea, but I’d still definitely recommend it!! If you’re looking for a good historical fiction, then this is the book for you 😁🥰

~ 4 stars


I really enjoyed this book!! Ruta Sepetys never disappoints 😁😁🤩🤩

Profile Image for L. | That_Bookdragon.
252 reviews12 followers
October 11, 2019
A solid 5/5 ⭐️

Thank you so much to Penguin Random House International for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. A very pretty bookmark was also included in the package they sent me, which you can see HERE

"The history hasn't written itself yet, Matheson. But you're capturing it as we speak with your photos."

Before we start, I would like to say that I was really eager for this book to be released because it is set during Franco's Spain. You guys need to know that my great-grandfather was one of those lucky ones who managed to escape Franco's dictatorship and found refuge in France. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet him when he was alive but I felt like this book would be truly important for me on a personal level to better understand what life was like for him in Spain at that time. Of course we studied fascist regimes in high school, but this book provided a very different insight of something I had no idea was happening. I will try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible and will mark the spoilers accordingly should there be any.

This book is set in 1957 Madrid, namely 20 years after Franco took power after the Spanish Civil War. While Spain is hiding a very dark secret, it opens its arms to American investors eager to do business with the European country by selling itself as the country of wine and sunshine. Daniel Matheson, the aspiring photographer son of one of those wealthy oil businessmen finds himself in this country with rules and laws so different from what he knows of America. He will meet plenty of local people and befriend them, taking photographs of them in their everyday lives in hopes of taking the shot that will offer him the first prize of a photography contest. While he stays at a newly open luxury hotel, he gets to meet Ana, a young Spanish maid assigned to his family. Secretive and discreet, Daniel will quickly understand that Spain as he imagines it is nothing like it actually is...

"It's impossible for outsiders to understand. There is a tension that exists between history and memory, señor. Some of us are desperate to preserve and remember, while others are desperate to forget."

This book was the first book I've read by Ruta Sepetys and I know for sure it won't be the last. She has a way to use words that hits right home. Through powerful prose, she depicts a deeply insightful image of Spain and its post-war status with a dictator holding a firm grip over it, controlling his citizens and threatening them at all moments. I didn't know prior to reading this book that Spain so desperately tried to attract tourists, especially Americans. I learned a lot while reading this book, and I do believe that's the quintessential essence of Historical Fictions to make readers learn more about very specific aspects of History that are often put aside by school's curriculums. It was interesting to see the clash of these two very different cultures. Americans with their freedom to do almost whatever they want against Spanish people being barely allowed to breathe. I loved the little "extras" the interviews and extracts from real papers brought to the text, it made the book even more believable and, in a way, even more gut-wrenching. I think it's always complicated to review a book that's based on events that truly happened and it always baffles me to see the sheer amount of research that needs to be done to write Historical Fictions.

"When captured at the right moment, truth reveals itself to the camera."

The characters of this story were also what truly brought it to life. This story follows multiple points of view but each character's voice is so different from the other that it was truly easily to distinguish who was talking and when. I think Daniel was my favorite character. He was genuinely good, a light within the darkness of all these people's lives. He wanted to help by taking pictures to show the world the reality behind Franco's Spain, the horror and the terrible secrets that are kept within its borders. However, I grew really attached to Ana and her family as well. They are the descendants of a mother and a father who were opposed to Franco and his dictatorship and ended up being executed for it, branding Ana and her siblings as the children of "degenerated people". All of them work hard, they often have two jobs to try to sustain their family and keep everyone fed. Miguel and Fuga were also memorable characters that I truly enjoyed reading about. Overall, I feel like every character in this story will leave a mark on me for a very long time, and not only because of their link to my family's history.

I finished this book last night, gobbling up the 250 pages I had left of it in less than one hour and a half. I really didn't want to leave them because they all felt close to me. However, I needed to know what would come to them so I kept reading anyway and ended up staring at my ceiling in silence for half an hour once the last page was turned. I wanted to write this review as soon as possible to have my emotions and feelings still raw and fresh from what I read. As I said before, it's hard for me to rate and review books talking about events that happened, but this one taught me about something terrible I had no idea was happening but will most certainly tell people about because I think it needs to be more widely known. If you want to know what I'm talking about, then you will have to get this book and find out for yourself because otherwise I would basically be revealing to you the whole plot of this mind-blowing book. And I very highly recommend you do, even for the sake of a History lesson given to you by the fantastic teacher Ruta Sepetys is. This book touched my heart very deeply and I really hope as many of you will pick up a copy of this book.

My Bookstagram
Profile Image for Debra .
2,200 reviews34.9k followers
October 7, 2020
Ruta Sepetys is the queen of period pieces and she did not disappoint in the brief sampler I read of The Fountains of Silence. The Setting is Madrid Spain in 1957. Under a harsh dictatorship, Spain is hiding a dark secret, but that does not stop the flood of tourists and businessmen from flocking to Spain.

In the sample, I was introduced to eighteen-year-old, Daniel, and Ana, a young hotel employee.

****I read a SAMPLER of the book and not the book itself. The sample served to pique my interest and had me wanting to know more about the story and the characters in them.

Thank you to Penguin Group and NetGalley who provided me with this sampler in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.5k followers
October 1, 2019
Why I love it
by Danielle McNally

When I read, I want to be transported. To another place, to another time, to a world I never could have experienced on my own. In Ruta Sepetys’s latest, The Fountains of Silence, I was taken to a sepia-toned summer in 1950s Spain. The entire time I was reading (which wasn’t long, since I flew through the 475-page novel in three days), I felt as if I, too, were walking the cobblestoned streets of Madrid, the heat of the late afternoon sun on my shoulders.

That said, this time period wasn’t a particularly pleasant one—at least, not if you were Spanish. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Daniel, a 19-year-old Spanish-American aspiring photographer, is staying with his wealthy parents at the Castellana Hilton (a real place!). There he meets Ana, a young maid who, along with her siblings, has struggled to make ends meet since her Republican parents were punished for their views. I love historical fiction, particularly stories about World War II, but I’d never read anything about how that seismic event played out in Spain. Through the stories of Ana, Daniel, and the many characters they encounter, Sepetys educated me about a point in modern history that has been largely ignored by popular media.

Though there’s no murder or heist, The Fountains of Silence plays out like a mystery. But rather than trying to solve a crime, you, reader, are tasked with uncovering what happened to the characters before the book began. And just like any good mystery, there are twists and reveals down every alleyway and in every whispered secret. This book is as much about life under Generalissimo Franco as it is about young love, bullfighting, swaggering Americans abroad, and family obligations. Hope you’ve got your passport, because you’re about to go on one hell of a trip to Spain.

Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/the-founta...
Profile Image for Renee (itsbooktalk).
394 reviews404 followers
October 23, 2019
If you're like me and tell yourself that you don't like YA, give this book a try and prepare to be blown away! My automatic reaction when I come across YA is to pass it by but after reading several I've loved (Field Notes on Love, Hope and Other Punchlines, Salt to the Sea) and now this, I have to say...I'm LOVING YA! I know this author is known as a "crossover" author since her books appeal to both teens and adults and I would agree but with The Fountains of Silence, I'd almost say it has a more overall "adult" feel. I don't throw out the words brilliant or spectacular too often in my reviews but those words exactly describe how I felt about this story and the characters.

I listened to over half on audio and the narrators were excellent! I'd highly recommend reading part or all of the book this way as there is so much spoken Spanish that comes alive with each of the narrators. I was wholly invested in the story of Ana, Daniel, Rafa, Julia, Puri and many more that I literally couldn't stop listening (my house is really clean, all the laundry is done, and I walked extra long for my workout:). The amount of research the author completed to write this is staggering but it shows in every detail as the setting of Madrid and Spain as a whole came alive, I felt I was there, I felt the people were real and when I finished I already missed them and could've read more...that's saying a lot considering this is a 500 page book! I thought the ending was perfection and so appreciate the time span the author provided. I loved it and fully expect it will be in my top 10 of the year!
Profile Image for Nofreeusernames Nofreeusernames.
Author 4 books1,308 followers
November 10, 2019
Na konci 50. let se začalo Španělsko pod diktátem generála Franca otevírat západu, protože nutně potřebovalo americké peníze. A tak se potkal osmnáctiletý Daniel z Texasu, syn ropného magnáta, se španělskou pokojskou Anou v hotelu Castellana Hilton. A kromě střetu západní svobody s všeobjímajícím strachem španělské diktatury přináší Ruta i další témata, kterým vévodí únosy novorozenců a jejich prodej do zahraničí. Ke slovu se tak nedostává jen ústřední dvojice, ale i Anina rodina – bratr, který pracuje na hřbitově a na jatkách a sní o kariéře toreadora, sestra Julia, která přišla o dítě, sestřenice Puri, která pracuje s jeptiškami v katolickém centru starající se o opuštěné děti a jejich adopci.

Daniel nabízí trochu naivní pohled (vlastně stejný jaký má běžný čtenář a outsider) a nechápe, proč Ana mlčí o minulosti, o režimu, o rodině, vlastně prakticky o všem… Jeho největší starostí je otcův tlak na převzetí rodinného byznysu, který je v rozporu s Danielovým plánem stát se fotografem.

Není to nakonec tak syrové a bolestivé jako třeba V šedých tónech, možná je to tím madridským vedrem a luxusem hotelu, kolem kterého se příběh odvíjí, možná je to tou celkem silnou romantickou linkou, která tomu všemu dává nějakou naději. Rozhodně to ale neznamená, že by Fountains of Silence bylo horší, to teda ani náhodou. Jak je u Ruty zvykem, je to skvěle napsané, představuje další kousek světové historie, který dosud nikdo moc neřešil, má skvělou obálku a konec, který je přesně takový, jaký jsem si přála (a fakt jsem si ho celou tu knížku přála hodně, takže bych bez něj byla dost zklamaná). Milion hvězdiček!
Profile Image for Kaya Dimitrova.
327 reviews70 followers
April 20, 2020
Бях убедена, че след "Сол при солта" Рута Сепетис няма как да ме разочарова с "Фонтани на мълчанието". И тя наистина не го направи. Във "Фонтани на мълчанието" Испания е под диктатурата на Франко, а в центъра на сюжета стоят един американец - страстен фотограф и една испанка, работеща като камериерка. Няма да издам нищо като кажа, че напълно очаквано двамата се влюбват, но сюжетът далеч не се ограничава с любовната история. Книгата разказва за едни тежки времена за Испания, през които се случват ужасно много нередности, за които никой тогава не говори - мизерията, отнемането на бебета от техните родители и продажбата им на други, страхът и мълчанието те карат да се гневиш, да страдаш, докато четеш поредния емоционално въздействащ роман на Сепетис. Завършвам с благодарност за проучванията на Сепетис и статиите, интервютата, писмата от този период, които ни предоставя с тази книга, защото те я правят още по-силна.
Profile Image for My_Strange_Reading.
511 reviews82 followers
December 5, 2019
#mystrangereading The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for GR)

Only Ruta Sepetys can rip your heart completely apart and then put the pieces back together again with a beautiful conclusion. My only qualm was that I really wanted an epilogue, but goodness that was heartbreaking, painful, inspiring and just stunning.

I love Spain and even lived there for a summer, but damn did I learn so much more than I ever understood before.

Aspects that make this historical fiction remarkable:
💃🏻 Her undeniably creative way she can weave so many seemingly unconnected stories together in a powerful way.
💃🏻 The amount of research and study you know she had to put in to write with such depth about this era and the people
💃🏻 The incredible performance of the voice actor on the audible version. I couldn't stop listening. She was so engaging and could do so many different voices/accents.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
805 reviews3,775 followers
November 27, 2019
this book was incredibly informative and eye-opening. there's so much deep information about spain during franco's rule and the horrors that occurred during that time. this book is rich with details and the many different faces and lives that spain had to offer.

i found it kind of slow and drawn out. the beginning and middle portion of the book felt like it went on forever. i really liked the ending though i would have liked to see more of the characters closer to present day.

lots of thoughts on this one.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Aoife - Bookish_Babbling.
285 reviews303 followers
April 19, 2020
Another read that I'm not sure how to rate. I've been backburner thinking about how to review this book since I finished it on friday...it's now sunday morning and I need to post something before I forget entirely 🙈

I have previously read one Ruta Sepetys book last year and have another waiting on my kindle for a Buddy Read if/when things calm down.
Both those books show aspects of WW2 from perspectives that we don't often see them from and this book was no different in that it shows a time in Spain following the end of the Civil War and how Franco's regime affected the people living under it in the 1950s.
Interestingly for this story, Sepetys brings us in to the narrative from an outsiders perspective through the eyes of Daniel a Spanish-american teen fresh out of high school visiting his mother's home country for the first time as his parents do business.

We meet locals through friendship struck up with one of the hotel staff and her family situation gives Daniel (and us) glimpses into their lives and some of the hardships + hard truths that come from living under this dictatorship. These are very slow reveals and as the title suggests there are many secrets & they are slow to unravel.
Ana and her family were a delight, which feels weird to say considering how they lived but the love they share warms the whole book. Her brother Rafa (such a labradoodle despite his own dark past) & her cousin Purificacion (indoctrinated inquisitive little bird) made really interesting contributions with their storylines - how Sepetys was able to shine a light on different hardships and how people dealt differently with the fall out of the Civil War & Franco's punishment of the "loosers" was cleverly interwoven and shown through the different storylines and character arcs.

One of the things I loved about this story, like Lina's drawings in Between Shades of Grey, is how Sepetys uses the arts to help give us better access to the story. In this book Daniel is an aspiring photographer - through this lens and the descriptions of the photos he captures (which I obvs wish we could see) a whole other side of Spain is discovered. Plus it introduced us to Miguel and he was such a gem.

Now for what is tripping me up about this book, (1) I didn't love the time jump at the end although I do understand why it had to happen it took us right out of the story just as it felt things were ramping up.
(2) our MC perspective of being an outsider while an interesting choice also kept the reader slightly outside the story. Yes we could see other characters PoV and we have more information than the MC, but because he didn't get all the same information as us he (and by proxy we) stay just a step removed from much of the emotional impact this story wishes to share...but maybe this is just a me problem and although I didn't realise the similarities to what happened in Ireland - I think because of the knowledge I had there when it came to one aspect of the storyline; I saw the breadcrumbs being spread and missed out somewhat on the emotional impact of those reveals. Not because I'm heartless (altho debatable) but because the seething anger about such shenanigans has already taken root in me and to say I am disappointed and sad such things happened elsewhere is not a strong enough reaction to how I feel about the "humanity" that condoned and encouraged these actions.
(Sorry for the cryptics but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone)

Apologies if there are mistakes in the spelling of characters names, this was another book I borrowed from my library and listened to the audio version. I loved hearing all the Spanish spoken aloud and the narrator had a great voice for storytelling. Interestingly there were also old timey type snippets of reports between chapters which give the reader an insight into some of the role the US played in the times when many didn't want anything to do with Franco and Spain by proxy. The father-son duo who appear as side characters through the embassy and Ben brought surprisingly interesting dynamics to this story and again I wish the time jump hadn't happened so we could have gotten a better feel for them - but they are not the focus of the story and indeed I would much rather have learnt more about life in Spain in the intervening years.

It is hard to put my finger on why I feel such a detachment from this story as I really was enjoying listening to it but I think it boils down to the "outsider" perspective and that time jump took me a little too much out of the story and kept a lot of the narrative more surface level than the gutt punching feelz of Between Shades of Grey. Sepetys authors note at the end perfectly explains why she made this choice and I respect it, but I don't know if this bit of distance and aiming this at more of a YA audience removed some of the emotional beats that could have helped this story resonate more. Although then again I don't really think it's the latter as her previous books have also been YA leaning, so it may be more of the outsider perspective and time jump that cause the disconnect for me.


I still hope people will read this as it is an accessible look into a time period where much silence remains and it raises many intriguing questions about how such loss of voices can happen and become contagious - fountains of Silence indeed *gulp*
Profile Image for Alicia.
5,732 reviews108 followers
March 19, 2019
Having had twelve hours to process the book after reading it in the span of twenty-four hours including a car ride (and I don't read in the car because well, motion-sickness, but there are just times where that needs to be overcome), I can now write a review that consists of more than hearts and exclamation points.

Picking stories that represent dark times in our global history is likely the easiest part, but deciding to tell it with the emotional strength and depth required can only be trusted to a few writers. Sepetys is one of those chosen few, and chosen because three books have already solidified her ability to write historical fiction and this one is equally captivating. Her appeal lies with adults and young adults who want to access the worlds she opens up. In this story, there are four characters who intersect in mesmerizing ways: Spanish brother and sister Ana and Rafa, their cousin Puri, and the American-- Daniel. Their connections unfold in a series of suspenseful, dark, sentimental, and deeply personal ways in and around the Castellana Hilton, a hotel that's a piece of the United States inside Madrid, Spain during the tumultuous and tenuous reign of Generalissimo Franco. The policies and practices that emerge lead to tragedy that Puri begins to uncover while Daniel as an outsider who pines for Ana also discovers additional stories when using the lens of his camera. Everyone has a story to tell.

There are characters you'll love to hate and characters you want to fall in love. One thing is for sure, you'll fall in love with Sepetys again. Storytelling is her passion and her purpose. And the power of the story is similar to Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See and Hannah's The Nightingale and the length and span of the story to Julie Berry's newest Lovely War. Whether readers are understanding the importance of dress for a bullfighter or poverty in Vallecas. I had no problem following the array of characters because they are all instrumental, even as the book moves forward in time and new secrets emerge, I would have gladly welcomed more.

It's the nuanced relationships and evocative time period that teach us about humanity. The setting creates is own set of problems and character so anyone who has visited will easily recognize it while those who haven't (me) can understand through Sepetys' choices what we didn't experience firsthand. She's a guide for epic stories of love and loss, politics and economics. The human toll of dictatorship. The secrets and the danger of secrecy. There was a constant pull to uncover and understand, so when Sepetys adds a confessional and power struggles, money and beauty, no one is ever quite certain who to trust but that in that, we can only imagine why even now there a vow of silence as Spain moves on.

One thing is for certain: this book is layered. It can be re-read as one of the three books someone would take on a deserted island and never tire of whether I'm staring at the cover or remembering all that unfolded between the pages. It's masterful and a book I will continue to re-live.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,130 reviews724 followers
December 29, 2019
Phenomenal narrative about a setting and time I had almost no knowledge of. A must read for historical fiction readers in general as well as fans of the author’s other works. Also an excellent companion read to Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours”.
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
745 reviews164 followers
March 18, 2021
My thanks to Penguin Random House Children’s UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this compelling and heart-rending read.

Spain in the 1950s, the Spain of General Franco provides the setting for this young adult novel. This was a regime where Franco ruled supreme, those that conformed could get by but those that ‘dared’ to hold their own views, to question, were repressed, subjected to torture, even killed while their families would live in fear for the rest of their lives. Women in particular had harder rules to follow from what they could wear to their right to love (and duty to be chaste) or even travel. And Franco ruled for 36 years. In the period our story is set, Americans were allowed in, as tourists but mostly as investors. In this place and time, we follow multiple characters and multiple threads.

On the one side we have siblings Ana, Rafa, and Julia Moreno, whose parents were killed by the regime for trying to run a school otherwise than as prescribed by Franco. Ana who is eighteen works at the Castellana Hilton, Madrid as a maid. Here she sees tourists, visitors from outside who bring with them pictures (magazines, papers) of a way of life where women can be free, where material things or at least a basically decent life is not out of reach. Rafa her brother works two jobs at a butcher’s and at a cemetery, while alongside training his friend Fuga as a matador (if they succeed, they might have a chance at a better life). Julia is married with a baby, and she works as a seamstress, making clothes for matadors. Life is a struggle for the family who is back together after being separated as children, and they must hold on to their jobs to be able to simply survive while moving to a slightly better home is a dream they are working towards (for which they much pinch and give up even the tiniest of luxuries). But as children of people who opposed Franco, they must always be on their guard for one wrong step can spell doom. But all three have dreams, and Ana and Rafa in particular also want to stand up to the restrictions they are living under but must tread carefully. Alongside we also have their cousin Puri who works at an orphanage. Puri believes in Franco’s regime, lives by the rules, but when she witnesses certain things and begins to have questions, she has nowhere to turn and must struggle between her ‘duty’ and her questions.

On the other side, we have Daniel Matheson, also eighteen who has come to Madrid with his Dad, an oil baron from Texas and his mother who is Spanish. Daniel speaks Spanish and finds himself at home in Spain. Like the Moreno siblings, he too has dreams, of being a photographer, attending journalism school—in fact he is a photographer and in the finals of a photography contest. But at a different level, he too is restricted for his father does not take his dreams seriously, and wants him to join his business. In the hotel, Daniel meets Ana and a friendship, even inklings of love develop. Ana finds Daniel to be different from other Americans she has met but is scared both because of her position and past experience. Daniel young, naïve, does not quite realise the truth of the country. Still his interest in Ana, and attempts at getting photographs for his contest (encouraged by journalist Ben Stahl who he meets in Madrid) lead him to uncover faces of the country that are not known outside, stumble upon secrets, and also bring him to the brink of danger as well.

This book drew me in right from the start and kept me reading throughout. In fact, I was reading well past bedtime and then again first thing in the morning to see what would happen to the characters.

As I wrote, this one has multiple characters and storylines—while we follow the perspectives of the characters I’ve mentioned, there are also others including Daniel’s parents, Nick, the son of a US embassy official who is dissipated and always in trouble, Miguel who runs a camera shop and develops Daniel’s pictures, Ben Stahl the journalist, and Fuga, the aspiring matador besides others at the hotel, embassy, and orphanage. Each of the storylines are interesting in themselves and there is never the feeling that one would rather be reading or getting back to another. One feels for most of the characters, and often has one’s heart in one’s mouth when any danger looms. Sepetys weaves these threads together masterfully, and one never loses track of where one is or who one is following.

This is a heart-wrenching read in many ways. Honestly I knew very little about Spain in Franco’s time before reading this book, and the conditions and constant fear that people had to live in can’t but be upsetting, and in fact make feel rather exasperated. It is worse to think that this was a world at a time around and just after the Second World War, when the rest of the world was making pronouncements of equality, freedom and human rights. But all of these seen to have proved hollow and paper protections for so many in reality.

I loved the inclusion of historical material in the book—newspaper reports, extracts from letters and government reports, interspersed between chapters, and giving one a sense of the real while not interfering with the flow of events.

This was a really gripping and moving read, and I highly recommend it!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,769 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.