Briefly Noted: ‘The Fountains of Silence’ by Ruta Sepetys

I’m  amazed by the ability of some authors to blend the history of difficult times with accurate detail and fully realized fictional characters and create a story that puts the reader into the mix. While I have yet to read Sepetys’ I must Betray You, I’ve read all of her other novels and believe she’s at the top of the authors’ pinacle with gripping historical fiction.

I have just finished The Fountains of Silence and found it to be illumninating ( wasn’t aware of the selling of babies during Franco’s time in Spain) and haunting (a love story that twists the readers heart into multiple knots). Sepetys inserted quotations about Spain from multiple archives into the fiction in separately layed out pages, and while I found this a bit jarring at first, I ultimately saw the wisdom of it and how it brought fact and fiction together.

As the novel’s notes say, it is estimated that 300,000 babies were stolen in the years following the Spanish civil war and sold to couples who were considered potentially better parents than the birth mother and father. In many cases, this practice doubled as a punishment of those people who faught against Franco during the war. The novel brings out the tragedies of this practice and the crucial need people had to keep silent about it in order to survive.

Imagine this: You go to the hospital to give birth and after the pain and joy of it, the doctor tells you the child did not survive. But it did survive and ended up in an orphanage and baby-selling scheme in which multiple people were complicit. The parents never knew because records were altered and the adoptive parents were listed on the birth certiticates as the actual parents, assuming they had adopted an abandoned child instead of a stolent child.

This practice comes under the heading of those than cannot be forgiven. The novel, though, goes on my must-read shelf where I will ultimately read it again and shed new nears.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s more recent novels focus on characters fighting the Klan as it was in 1950s Florida.