bookellenic's Reviews > The Fountains of Silence

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
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really liked it

At first I could not find the words to express my rating process, because for a long time this was closer to a 3-star than a 4-star book for me. Alas, the author's note at the end supplied me with the key-word; Ruta Sepetys is a"crossover" author, meaning her books are picked up by both teen and adult readers. The fact that this was (mainly) targeted toward younger audiences was one of the reasons I rated this book so highly. You may find this explanation unwarranted or confusing, but bear with me: An adult reader of historical fiction might view this book at a slightly different angle than a predominantly YA reader. As a fan of both, I must admit that I went in expecting an adult novel and felt that it was falling short. Once that happened, I researched this book a bit and, combined with Sepetys' note near the end, my whole viewpoint changed. That is why I believe placing The Fountains of Silence in Children's fiction was more than a strategic move for publishing and marketing purposes; it was the author's way to infuse the new generation with knowledge and curiosity, because they are the fresh blood, whereby lies the hope of a brighter future with them as protagonists and catalysts. 

What you've most probably heard about Ruta Sepetys is true; she creates well-researched projects that inspire you to learn more about the story, the place, the people, the history. That much was evident throughout The Fountains of Silence. She helpfully provides the reader with so many sources of information, making individual research more accessible whilst offering a plethora of reference points and historical sources. A historical fiction author has to carry a heavy weight when fictionalising based on true events and Sepetys absolutely delivers. On a more subjective note, the fact that the events take place in Madrid brought back such amazing memories from my recent trip there. The references to Retiro Park, Prado Museum, Toledo and so many other places and monuments transported me back, when I was visiting all those sights myself. That's why it holds a special place in my heart.  

The intrigue of the plot itself comes from following different characters with different backgrounds and seemingly separate sub-stories that end up becoming a part of a bigger jigsaw. It was so engrossing witnessing how all the pieces came together; how a love between a Spanish worker in a hotel and an American occupant with Spanish roots intertwined with a big scandal of illegal adoptions and children rooted out of their homes without their parents' consent; how fear of losing what one has left after having endured so much loss in the past bound them to silence; how an orphan with aspirations to become a bullfighter knew what it was like for him and other children to be cast away from their families without having any control over their lives. The antithesis between children that were abandoned and children that were forcefully and secretly taken from their biological families is so stark in this novel, yet the repercussion remained the same; in both cases they felt unwanted and without a sense of belonging or direction. When I sit and ponder over how a child ended up being adopted without their families having a say, I feel so infuriated and appalled. How does one decide over someone else's child's future, which, according to sources, took place more than 300,000 times? The sensitivity of this issue shed  light on the sociopolitical and financial background of the times, and I am so grateful to have gained some knowledge on that matter. More than that, the complexity and sublayers of the story gradually caught up with me even after having finished the book. It is so challenging for a story to resonate with the reader, but this one did. 

If there is one element that did not fully satisfy me, it was the character structure. The protagonists did not feel as multifaceted as I had anticipated. On the contrary, it felt like each person was one-dimensional, with a specific purpose and one way of viewing life and everyone around them. As for the reading experience, I switched between the digital ARC that I was granted access to via NetGalley and Random House Children's Publishers UK and the audiobook, so as to save time. While I appreciated the Spanish-accented narrator who enabled me to virtually travel to Madrid and hear all those Spanish conversations (the Spanish glossary at the end of the e-book did not go amiss and was a great touch that once again displayed the author's all-rounded research), she felt rather monotonous at times. Overall, I would suggest the physical book or e-book for this one. The brief chapters make it flow rather quickly and effortlessly. 

I couldn't have concluded in a better way than the author herself, whose incentive and message is found in her own words: "When you discover the truth, you must speak it aloud and help others to do the same. Truth breaks the chain of silence. It sets us all free."
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 19, 2019 – Finished Reading
October 20, 2019 – Shelved

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