Release Date: 2nd February 2016
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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.
Salt to the Sea was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Ruta Sepetys has completely delivered three times in a row now, meaning that her spot on my auto-buy authors list is well deserved. Her writing style is captivating and contains the perfect blend of description and emotion, which then toys with my emotions and causes me to become so attached to her stories that I want to hit people in the face with her books. In a loving way, of course.
Salt to the Sea is marketed as being set on an overcrowded ship during World War II, and I have to say that that’s a little bit of a white lie. Very little of the book is set on the ship itself, as the first couple of hundred pages follow the various characters as they try to get to the ship to escape war-torn East Prussia. This isn’t necessarily a negative, but since I hadn’t actually heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff before reading this book (more on that in a minute), I wasn’t expecting the characters to be wandering around in the woods so much.
One thing I’m not used to with Sepetys’ books is having more than one point of view. There are a lot of POV characters in this book, and I am pleased to say that it all worked really, really well. The book wouldn’t have been the same with just one viewpoint, as each of the characters provided their own unique view and experience in regards to the war and their countries.
I loved all of the point of view characters, apart from Alfred. He certainly added to the story, but as a character he… well, he wasn’t one of the good guys. I really struggled with his chapters at times, and I think a lot of readers will as well. That said, he was intriguing, and I enjoyed getting into his head, even if I didn’t understand him and his actions at all.
So, Salt to the Sea features the Wilhelm Gustloff, the sinking of which marks the greatest and most fatal sea 13disaster in history. And yet, I had never heard of such a ship. Why? Because people covered it up. Nearly ten thousand people died on the Wilhelm Gustloff alone, and that’s not taking the other sunken ships of the Baltic into account, and no one knew about them. So I have to thank Ruta Sepetys for bringing this sea disaster to my attention.
Also, can I just say that that Sepetys’ author’s notes are always awesome? I love how much she cares about the victims of history, and about telling stories that people need to hear.
Obviously, I loved Salt to the Sea. I loved the characters. I loved the subject matter. And I loved that there was a mention of Lina from Between Shades of Gray! It was unexpected and wonderful. I encourage everyone to give Sepetys’ books a go because, like I said above, she’s an auto-buy author for me and she might make it onto your list as well.