A Mesmerizing YA Historical Romance Sheds Light on Franco Dictatorship
Ruta Sepety’s fourth novel, The Fountains of Silence, enthralls and educates teen and adult readers in the experiences of people whose histories often skimmed over in American-centric history classes, this time under the Francoist Spain dictatorship in 1957. Sepety’s maintains her unique ability to accurately describe terrible scenes gracefully, without ever having to rely on shock and awe to hold the attention of the reader.
Sepety brings her talents and respect to Francoist Spain 1957. Life is repressed under the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and Ana Torres Moreno is a 17 year-old “red” orphan who works as a housekeeper in the newly opened Castellana Hilton Madrid. Ana clocks long hours to help support her remaining family, and to pay the “rent” on her mother’s grave plot, which is required in order to prevent eviction into a mass grave. Spain and the United States have reached an agreement in which US military bases will open in the strategically placed locations within the country, in exchange for economic support. Investors, particularly in oil, flock from places like Texas to strike deals and shake hands.
Daniel Matheson’s father is one of these oil men. Daniel is an aspiring photographer who has just graduated high school, and travels to Spain with his Spanish mother and Texan father for the summer. Early in his trip Daniel captures a picture that propels his investigation, and documentation, of some of Spain’s darkest moments in history. With Ana’s assistance, along with a few friends and mentors he meets during his stay, Daniel’s work leads to revelations that will take decades to come to light.
Written in many short chapters and multiple points-of-view, the action is fast-paced. Ana and Daniels initial encounter sparks a companionship that leaves them both hoping for the other’s heart. Though this novel’s dark nature is undeniable, the flirtations, descriptions of longing, and sort-of HEA hit the romance criteria. Adults, older teens, and historical fiction fanatics simply must pick this satisfying gem of a book. Highly recommended!
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Many thanks to NetGalley's Bookish First and Philomel Books/Penguin Teen for providing me an ARC this title in exchange for an honest review.