Review Blog

Dec 06 2019

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241422236.
(Age: Older adolescents and adults) Highly recommended. This is a stunning novel that tells a narrative through short chapters featuring many quotations from real people of the historical time and telling the story of real and imaginary characters, both American and Spanish, who lived in that time. The narrative features two eras, the first and longest beginning in 1957 and set only in Spain, the second much shorter and set in Dallas, Texas in 1975, and Madrid, Spain in 1976.
While most chapters are very short, the narrative is clearly revealed both through the inclusion of quotations, at the start of many chapters, from American newspapers and statements about Spain and Spanish issues. Thus we feel deeply connected and drawn into the exposition of the reality of the communication between America and Spain. The plot line is deeply embedded in the world of the Diplomatic corps. Similarly, the interaction between the business section of both countries, relating both particularly and directly to oil, and the interaction between the Americans who resided in Spain and the Spanish who were part of their world, is an intrinsic part of this story. We are drawn into this world through the reality of many extracts from official documents.
In this narrative, there is a sense of both an historical document enabling a development of our understanding and our consciousness of the reality of life in the country of Spain during this time, and of the reality of that world for the people who lived in that era. The dark secrets that underlie this narrative relate to Franco's dominating Presidency and that of the compliance of the leaders of the Catholic Church and its acceptable dominance in Franco's world, revealing some details that are both surprising and some that are deeply unsettling.
This novel would be particularly appropriate for older adolescent readers and adults, and is indeed an inspiring and challenging novel of events and principles observed during one of the unsettling periods in history.
Elizabeth Bondar

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