It is 1939. In the Ventas prison in Madrid a group of women have been incarcerated. Their crime is to havesupported or fought on the Republican side in Spain's devastating Civil War. Chief among them is Hortensia, who fought with the militia and is pregnant by her husband Felipe, a man still fighting againstFranco's dictatorship. After giving birth to a baby girl, Hortensia is executed by a firingsquad. Later on, her husband will also be shot during an ambush, and her sister Pepita becomes her niece'sguardian. Intertwined with these events is the inspiring, romantic and infinitely moving love affair between Pepita and the leader of a guerrilla group, Paulino (alias Jaime). Spanning the years 1939-1963,and based on the lives of actual women survivors of the Spanish Civil War (the "sleeping voice" of the title) who suffered death and imprisonment under the Franco regime, Dulce Chacon's bestsellingnovel is remarkable for its combination of dramatic intensity and historical authenticity.
The novel starts in 1939 and tells of a group of women held in Madrid's Ventas prison for having backed thelosing Republicans. They are cold, hungry and subjected to random cruelty for trivial misdemeanours, never knowing when they will be taken for trial, or to be shot.
Hortensia is pregnant, and theauthorities wait only for the child to be born before executing her. She is accused of "joining a rebellion" - as if "the nationalists were not the rebels against the elected republic". Her husbandFelipe fled to the hills to support a guerrilla struggle that collapsed in the late 1940s, when it was clear no European democracy would help free Spain from dictatorship.
Elvirita, 16, had waited amongtens of thousands in Alicante for ships to carry Republicans to safety. The ships never came, and she was seized by Falangists. Tomasa watched her husband and four children tossed from a bridge, shot...