Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Publication Date: February 4th 2016 by Puffin
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historic, Young Adult, World War II.
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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.
This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it definitely did not disappoint. Salt to the Sea focuses on the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II. I had only ever heard of the Gustloff in passing and this book truly opened my eyes to the scope of this tragedy. The death toll came to a total of over 9000 and close to half of the number was made up by children, yet this maritime tragedy is often overlooked in history.
Salt to the Sea follows the journey of four young individuals that find themselves aboard the ship. Florian, Emilia, Joana and Alfred all have a story to tell. Coming from four different backgrounds each character has their own reasons for seeking refuge aboard the Gustloff. I loved seeing how their paths eventually twine together and exploring the connection they build with one another. Personally I loved Joana’s voice and it was definitely the easiest to follow as she sought to lend a helping to hand to anyone that was in need. However, when it comes to the characters I must say that Emilia’s journey was the one that touched me the most. Her bravery and her hope in the face of such hardships and tragedy was such a testament to her strength and my heart ached for her. Florian was a bit of a mystery to me at first but by the end I was completely enamoured by him. However, not all of the characters are likeable and it was interesting to see the differences in their voices with regards to their ideologies and attitude towards the war.
Another stand out in the book is the fact that each chapter is no more than 3 pages long. This was an effective move in terms of keeping the pace going but that did mean that it took me longer to emotionally connect with the characters, hence the four star rating. I feel like the chapters could have benefitted from being a little longer just so I could appreciate the quieter, tender moments a bit more.
From beginning to end, Salt to the Sea highlights the true horrors of war. The book details the desperation of a population that has grown weary of the day to day fears they face in their search for refuge and explores the lengths they would go to to ensure their survival. More than anything Salt to the Sea drives home the fact that there are no real victors in war and I would urge you to read this book.