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.
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.
I got this ARC at Book Con this year and have really been anticipating it. Ruta is one of my favorite authors.
I really love that she writes historical fiction based on events that are not widely known.
In school I learned about the horrible dictatorships of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. But they did not cover anything about Franco. They should.
“Between 1939 and the late 1980s, it is alleged that over 300,000 babies were stolen from their birth mothers and sold into adoption.” -Lucia Benavides.
CAN YOU EVEN FATHOM THAT!? It breaks my heart.
Then at the end they talk about amnesty. For stealing 300,000 babies? NO WAY! I wouldn’t grant it. There should be trials like they had for the Nazis. (I should look up if amnesty was granted or not.)
There is a quote at the beginning of the book, an anonymous epitaph from the Spanish Civil War mass grave that says, “We have only died if you forget us.”
You are not forgotten, and I think more authors should tell their stories.
I loved Daniel and Ana so much. Their stories and their families’ stories were so full of life. I really felt their feelings and became so invested in their fates. I was a mess of tears by the end. I didn’t care that I was on public transit.
I also loved how the novel told different POVs of living under Franco’s oppression. The fear, the rebellious streak, and even the indoctrination.
The inclusion of articles from presidents, ambassadors, and news clippings were insightful. As were the photographs at the end. Very fitting for a story that showed the importance and strength of photography.
As someone who was brought up Catholic, one part that really stood out to me was when all the characters were going to Confession and how differently they all felt about the Sacrament.
I feel like this may be my favorite of Ruta’s books. I haven’t figure out why that is yet. But I love all of her books that I read.
Some of my favorite quotes: (Yes, I know it’s an ARC but these quotes speak so strongly and I hope they are in the final version.)
Page 12: Photographs are spontaneous and exciting, something that he creates, not inherits.
Page 36: Julia’s fingers are silent narrators, embroidered with scars.
Page 214: God forgive me if I am wrong. If I am right, there is no forgiveness for you.
Page 278: But one day, far into the future when the pain is less sharp, the voices of the dead will find harmony with the living.
5 out of 5 Rolls of Film.
I did have one question and one wish but they are spoilers:
Families had to pay for the graves of their loved ones or else they would be exhumed and put in a mass grave. So my question is that if Julia and Antonio were told one of their babies died, then were they not paying rent for her grave like they were for Julia’s mother? Or was that just omitted so that the readers wouldn’t guess that Cristina and Lali were twins?
My one wish is I would have loved to read an epilogue a few years later where Cristina and Lali know they are sisters and are friends. I was left wanting more and that would have had me crying more than I already was.