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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Historical fiction

The Fountains of Silence

by Ruta Sepetys

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Quick take

Like a juicy history lesson. Unearth a hidden time in Spain full of hardship, family duty, and scandal.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance

    Romance

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_ForbiddenLove

    Forbidden love

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Teen

    Teens

Synopsis

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography—and fate—introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War—as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Fountains of Silence.
The Fountains of Silence

Part One

1

They stand in line for blood.

June’s early sun blooms across a string of women waiting patiently at el matadero. Fans snap open and flutter, replying to Madrid’s warmth and the scent of open flesh wafting from the slaughterhouse.

The blood will be used for morcilla, blood sausage. It must be measured with care. Too much blood and the sausage is not firm. Too little and the sausage crumbles like dry earth.

Rafael wipes the blade on his apron, his mind miles from morcilla. He turns slowly from the line of customers and puts his face to the sky.

In his mind it is Sunday. The hands of the clock touch six.

It is time.

The trumpet sounds and the march of the pasodoble rolls through the arena.

Rafael steps onto the sand, into the sun.

He is ready to meet Fear.

In the center box of the bullring sits Spain’s dictator, Generalísimo Francisco Franco. They call him El Caudillo—leader of armies, hero by the grace of God. Franco looks down to the ring. Their eyes meet.

You don’t know me, Generalísimo, but I know you.

I am Rafael Torres Moreno, and today, I am not afraid.

 

“Rafa!”

The supervisor swats the back of Rafael’s damp neck. “Are you blind? There’s a line. Stop daydreaming. The blood, Rafa. Give them their blood.”

Rafa nods, walking toward the patrons. His visions of the bullring quickly disappear.

Give them their blood.

Memories of war tap at his brain. The small, taunting voice returns, choking daydreams into nightmares. You do remember, don’t you, Rafa?

He does.

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Why I love it

When I read, I want to be transported. To another place, to another time, to a world I never could have experienced on my own. In Ruta Sepetys’s latest, The Fountains of Silence, I was taken to a sepia-toned summer in 1950s Spain. The entire time I was reading (which wasn’t long, since I flew through the 475-page novel in three days), I felt as if I, too, were walking the cobblestoned streets of Madrid, the heat of the late afternoon sun on my shoulders.

That said, this time period wasn’t a particularly pleasant one—at least, not if you were Spanish. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Daniel, a 19-year-old Spanish-American aspiring photographer, is staying with his wealthy parents at the Castellana Hilton (a real place!). There he meets Ana, a young maid who, along with her siblings, has struggled to make ends meet since her Republican parents were punished for their views. I love historical fiction, particularly stories about World War II, but I’d never read anything about how that seismic event played out in Spain. Through the stories of Ana, Daniel, and the many characters they encounter, Sepetys educated me about a point in modern history that has been largely ignored by popular media.

Though there’s no murder or heist, The Fountains of Silence plays out like a mystery. But rather than trying to solve a crime, you, reader, are tasked with uncovering what happened to the characters before the book began. And just like any good mystery, there are twists and reveals down every alleyway and in every whispered secret. This book is as much about life under Generalissimo Franco as it is about young love, bullfighting, swaggering Americans abroad, and family obligations. Hope you’ve got your passport, because you’re about to go on one hell of a trip to Spain.

 

The Fountains of Silence is also the October pick for Marie Claire’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC: a space for women who love books—by women!—and love talking about them, but prefer to do so from the comfort of their couch. Share your review of the book using the hashtag #ReadWithMC by October 28 for a chance to be featured on MarieClaire.com.

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Member ratings (10,326)

  • Kaytee K.

    Raleigh, NC

    This is the best book that I have read in YEARS. I truly didn’t want it to end, and I’ve brought this story up in my daily conversations. I couldn’t put this book down and I can’t recommend it more.

  • Hannah P.

    Lexington, KY

    Ok, this book will forever have a place in my heart, I don’t think I’ve EVER loved a book as much as I love this one. It’s so beautifully written and every detail weaves into one another. I RECOMMEND!

  • Kelsey F.

    Oceanside, CA

    It broke my heart and then put it all back together. ❤️ A wonderful portrayal of Spain’s history through many perspectives. I want to go back to Spain one day to see it through these different lenses.

  • Devon F.

    Clermont, FL

    I’ve never been into hist fict but LOVED this! Very interesting to learn the history and you’re very invested in the characters. Some parts break your heart, especially since they’re historically true

  • Patricia M.

    Harvest, AL

    I’m a fan of historical fiction, but this is the first book I’ve ready about Spain during Franco’s regime. Fascinating! I fell in love with the characters and their stories. I didn’t want it to end!

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