Review of The Fountains of Silence

 The Fountains of Silence
by Ruta Sepetys
High School    Philomel    498 pp.    g
10/19    978-0-399-16031-8    $18.99

Sepetys’s riveting historical epic examines the enduring effects of the Spanish Civil War through the perspectives of four young people living under the shadow of Franco’s fascist dictatorship in 1957 Madrid. Ana and Rafael are siblings whose Republican educator parents were murdered for opposing Franco’s Nationalist party. Now, almost twenty years later, the family still struggles. Ana is a maid in an American-style hotel, while Rafael splits his time between working in a slaughterhouse and digging graves. They earn pennies even as Franco’s government grows rich off American tourism and oil industries. Their cousin Puri, a loyal fascist, is a caregiver at a Catholic orphanage, where she is increasingly disturbed by some troubling discoveries concerning the infants in her charge. Daniel, an aspiring American photojournalist whose mother is from Spain and father is a Texas oil baron, befriends Ana and Rafael and begins to question everything he’s been told about Spain and its pretty façade—especially after he and Ana fall in love. Through lively characters and short, swiftly paced chapters permeated with elements of mystery and suspense, Sepetys thoroughly and sensitively explores the vast social, economic, and political issues that plagued postwar Spain, including the selling of stolen Republican infants to Nationalist families. Excerpts from newspapers, government documents, and interviews from and about the time add another layer of veracity. Back matter includes an author’s note, an extensive bibliography, information on sources, a glossary of Spanish words and phrases, and a photo gallery. An exemplary work of historical fiction.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is the library department chair and upper school librarian at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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