The Fountains of Silence

Philomel. Oct. 2019. 512p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399160318.
Gr 7 Up–In her latest historical novel, Sepetys illuminates dark secrets about Francisco Franco’s fascist rule of Spain. In 1957 Madrid, 18-year-old aspiring photojournalist Daniel Matheson is staying at the luxurious Castellana Hilton Hotel with his Texas oil tycoon father and Spanish mother. Daniel befriends Ana, a hotel employee, whose attraction to Daniel is constrained by fear about losing her job and by silence about her family tragedies. When Daniel turns his camera lens on local people and places, he captures provocative images of nuns and orphans, infant burials, an impassioned, struggling bullfighter, the intimidating Guardia Civil military police, Ana’s impoverished homelife, and his father shaking hands with Franco. Gradually, Daniel discovers that beneath the bustling tourist and business vibe of Madrid lurks the dark realities of Franco’s regime: stolen children, sinister church and government collusion, murder of Franco’s political adversaries, and the abuse and re-education of surviving children—like Ana and her siblings. Troubled by unanswered questions, Daniel returns to the U.S. with his parents and a newly adopted sister. He revisits Spain with his sister 18 years later, after Franco’s death. As he introduces his sister to her original culture, he fondly reconnects with Ana and learns the truth of his sister’s parentage. This multidimensional story contains a rich cast of characters with different perspectives, vivid descriptions, romance, and cultural insights. Multiple narrative threads are skillfully woven together. Official quotations from academic and foreign service archives are interspersed among the chapters and document the conflicted relationship between the U.S. and Franco.
VERDICT This well-crafted story sheds light on a disturbing chapter of 20th century history and helps break the silence and expose the tragedy of 300,000 children adopted or stolen during Franco’s rule.

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