Publisher: Puffin Books
Release Date: February 4th 2016 (UK)
Buy The Book: Amazon - Amazon UK
It's early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore's The Siege will be totally absorbed.
This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all were drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.
I’ve mentioned before that Ruta’s novel Between Shades of Gray was the book that inspired me to create this blog. After reading it, I had no one to discuss it with and instead found my way to Goodreads, which led me to start posting my bookish thoughts on here. She has been one of my favourite writers since then. So needless to say, I was massively excited to read her latest story, Salt to the Sea.
This book follows four characters on their individual journeys, and eventually their paths cross. Throughout the book, we get to learn their four very different stories. I was unsure how I’d feel reading a story from four narratives because usually I prefer single, but this book would not have worked without being told in the way it was.
Salt to the Sea tells of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustlov, an often forgotten part of history that shouldn’t be ignored. Over 9000 people lost their lives trying to evacuate Germany on the ship. I’m so grateful that Ruta decided to share this story because before reading the book, I had never even heard of this ship, much less knew of the horrifically high death toll.
The characters within this story are beautifully written and I was utterly sucked into their fight to survive. Although difficult to read at times, I’m glad that Ruta included Alfred’s story, a Nazi sailor, because it was interesting to see things play out from his point of view, in a shocking contrast to the other characters.
Joana, Florian, and Emilia were such strong and determined characters, and I loved seeing them bond despite the circumstances. I adored all of the characters dearly, but knowing the theme of this story, I knew that a happily ever after for everyone wasn’t going to be the case. Ruta injected so much realism into the characters and their struggles, making every word believable.
There is no doubt that this is a harrowing tale, but it’s an important one. It’s crucial that we read and learn historical stories like this so that we do not forget those lost in such a horrific event. The characters in Salt to the Sea are fictional, but the tragedy was very much real, and this book shows us a glimpse of what it must have been like for those who suffered. I was reduced to tears several times, but I am so thankful I had the opportunity to read this story.