The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical Fiction and 495 pages

Set in 1957 Madrid, Ana is working at the newly opened American hotel and Daniel has traveled to Madrid with his parents from Texas. Daniel’s mother is Spanish and always wanted to travel there with him, but under Francisco Franco’s rule Americans were not welcome for many years and tourism has only recently opened up. Ana’s family is struggling to pay bills and she is very grateful for the job she has at the hotel, but her and Daniel immediately feel a connection and begin spending time together despite everyone telling them it can only end badly. Daniel aspires to be a photojournalist and takes his fancy camera everywhere, even though the Italian soldiers have tried to intimidate him into not taking any photos of the “real Madrid.” Daniel feels fairly confident that nothing bad will happen to him since he is an American with a powerful father, but Ana knows that the Italian police can make her and her family’s life very hard so she tries to keep her head down and do what is expected of her. Meanwhile, Ana’s cousin and brother have noticed some unusual occurrences at their places of work. Puri, Ana’s cousin, works at an orphanage and begins to suspect that not all of the babies brought to her are actually orphans. Rafa, Ana’s brother, works as a grave digger and he begins to notice that many of the infant coffins that arrive from the local hospital are actually empty. What is happening to the babies in Italy and why is their reported infant mortality rate so high? Is it something Daniel could investigate on his road to hopefully becoming a photojournalist or is it too dangerous? Is there any way for Daniel and Ana to be together or do they just come from too many different backgrounds to make it work?

Once again, Ruta Sepetys has highlighted a time and a place in history that many people do not know much about and put a human face on it. Many aspects of this time period in Madrid are discussed and readers will want to know more about all of the characters. Even some of the less likable characters have understandable reasons for why they act the way they do. The environment has bred fear and want among the Italians and they aren’t sure if it will ever get any better since it’s already pretty far after the war. The characters are all so engaging that readers will find they simply do not want to stop reading about them, but the setting is also unique and thought provoking on its own. Recommended for fans of historical fiction.

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