April 23, 2016
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 title was provided to us by the Publisher/Author. We were in no way compensated for our review(s).
I’d heard nothing but good things about Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea prior to reading the novel. As a big fan of novels that are set during World War 2, I was ready to eat up Salt to the Sea and find out what was so great about this novel. So what is so great about Salt to the Sea? The answer is this: everything. Everything about this novel gripped my attention and had me flipping pages until the very end. This is the kind of haunting novel that stays with you long after the novel’s conclusion.
Set near the end of the Second World War, Salt to the Sea tells the story of four teens and their struggles for survival. Joana, Florian, and Emilia are desperately trying to reach the coast in an attempt to get away from Russian soldiers and the battle that the Germans are losing. Alfred is a lesser-ranked German soldier who is dedicated to the Nazi regime and mentally writes letters to a girl he loved and left behind. These characters’ paths cross as they struggle to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship whose voyage was doomed from the very beginning.
The one thing that I need to get out of the way is that Salt to the Sea truly managed to capture the horrors of wartimes and the desperation of human beings. There were so many beautifully written passages in the novel and so many disturbing depictions of death and poverty. There were countless times while reading where I cringed and had to set the novel down or re-read a line to truly understand the horrors that Sepetys was conveying. Salt to the Sea is such a beautiful and tragic novel and has many hard-hitting and emotionally difficult scenes that will stay with the reader indefinitely.
Novels that typically have more than one protagonist are novels that can easily become messy if written incorrectly. Sepetys creates her protagonists in a masterful way. They are clearly human and suffer from their own traumas, and the way that Sepetys introduces these characters to the reader and shows readers the way they tick is breathtaking. No two protagonists are alike and each of the novel’s characters are memorable.
In all honesty, I hadn’t expected Salt to the Sea to take the route that it did. The ship that the characters board in the novel—the Wilhelm Gustloff—was a real ship that was ravaged by tragedy. It is definitely a lesser-known tragedy of the Second World War (I didn’t even know it existed up until I finished the novel) and it offered the novel with a very interesting and unique climax. The best way I can describe it without spoiling anything is by saying that readers who are fans of, say, the Titanic would definitely be intrigued by the Wilhelm Gustloff and its impact on the novel.
Salt to the Sea is easily the kind of novel that I think everybody should read. Not only is it beautifully written but there is a romantic side-plot that I adored. There are also secrets that each character harbors that are brought to light as the novel progresses and leave readers questioning their own morals and the decisions that they would make were they in the protagonist’s shoes.
I would recommend Salt to the Sea to everyone. Are you a fan of novels that are unforgettable, gorgeous, and deserve recognition? Read Salt to the Sea. Are you a fan of romance, heart-pounding plots, and characters who will have your heart breaking? Read Salt to the Sea. Are you a reader? Read Salt to the Sea.