Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young adult historical fiction
Published: By Philomel Books on February 2nd, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
(adapted from Goodreads)
In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Going into this book, I knew nothing of the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff. I picked it up expressly to learn more about it. However, it sucked me into a story that really struck a chord with me in unexpected ways. The audiobook wasn’t as good as Illuminae, but I did enjoy the narration. The book is told in four different perspectives and I have to admit that I found all of them agreeable except Alfred. The Shoe Poet and the Wandering Boy were some of the side characters I adored as well. The plot was more of a slow journey rather than an action-packed page-turner. The war-torn setting was so dreary that my mind was picturing all of the scenes in black and white. The writing style gripped me from the very beginning. The themes were portrayed very well with constant symbolism, especially in Emilia’s part. The reason I didn’t give it a perfect rating was because I wanted the end to be more clearer and fleshed out some more.
I would suggest anyone interested in World War II history to check out this book because it tells the truth about a lesser-known but incomprehensibly horrifying tragedy. Soundtracks of war movies would go well with this book and I especially suggest Dunkirk. Shield yourself from all the dreariness by snacking on your comfort food as the story unfolds.
To give you an idea of what the book is based on and the true story of the tragedy, check out the video below by the author that delves into the research she did and the history of Wilhelm Gustloff. Be warned that it contains spoilers for the book, but I recommend you read the book even though you can guess how it ends because it is so powerful and will definitely give you food for thought. I hope that the story makes you pick up the book to learn more about this page of history.
I feel like this is a more popular book, so if you’ve read it, let me know what your thoughts are. If not, is it on your TBR? Did you know of the incident of Wilhelm Gustloff before you heard about the book? Let me know in the comments section down below.