In her stunning new novel, New York Times bestselling author Ruta Sepetys, author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray, turns her attention to a period rarely (if ever) covered in American young adult literature: 1950s Spain under the rule of Francisco Franco.
The first part of The Fountains of Silence takes place in Madrid in 1957, as Sepetys follows four young people who are all trying to set the course for their futures through alternating chapters narrated in third person. Rafa must deal with blood every day in his job at a slaughterhouse, but blood is a part of his past as well. He is tormented by the memory of his father’s murder—which he and his sisters, Julia and Ana, witnessed firsthand—at the hands of “the Crows,” Franco’s guards.
Ana, Rafa’s sister, is now a maid in a hotel and dreams of leaving Spain. She is drawn to a guest at the hotel named Daniel, a young white man from Texas. Daniel wants to be a photojournalist, a dream his father, a Texas oilman, is sure Daniel will outgrow. The fourth and final character, Puri, works with babies at a Madrid orphanage—some of whom may have been stolen from their parents.
The novel depicts these characters’ lives, loves and often-difficult decisions as their paths intertwine. The second part of the book revisits all four characters nearly two decades later, when Daniel returns to Madrid after Franco’s death on November 20, 1975, and discovers a shocking secret.
In an author’s note, Sepetys traces her interest in Spain to a trip she took while on a book tour, where she met readers fascinated by the past—a past that was often both hidden and painful. “I discovered that Spain is a classroom for the human spirit,” she writes. A 2011 article about the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath drew her further into the country’s history. (For readers interested in learning more, the novel includes a substantial bibliography as well as a glossary.)
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.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read Ruta Sepetys’ Behind the Book essay about The Fountains of Silence.