Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many 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 to safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people adults and children alike aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did! You all know by now that I love Historical Fiction, but I’ve heard mostly “meh” things about this book, and I didn’t even finish the author’s other WWII book, Between Shades of Grey.
5 Things About Salt to the Sea
1) The audiobook is probably 50% of the reason I liked this so much. It was fantastic! There are four different narrators, one, for each POV, and they did an amazing job. The voices matched the characters’ personalities perfectly, and their voices all had a ton of feeling. 10/10 would recommend listening to this one, which is saying a lot, because normally I really don’t like audiobooks.
2) The characters are all really well developed. They also had really compelling backstories, and they all had distinct personalities. I truly cared about all of them. I also liked the hint of romance between two of the characters. It was very slow and subtle, which is my favorite!! I shipped them before they were shippable. Also, I totally have a crush on Florian. (I know, just read my bio on all my accounts: I have way too many book boyfriends. It’s a problem.) I also thought the contrasts between some of the characters were fascinating. Florian and the other guy character (whose name I forgot) are both German, but they are completely different. They made different choices, thought differently, etc. It was an interesting look at how your environment shapes your actions and mindset, but also how circumstances don’t control who you choose to be.
3) No one is ever safe, and I almost died from the tension. Everyone could have been caught and KILLED!! Everyone almost DIED!! Some people actually DIED!! *sobs* There is a Prussian who is smuggling seeecret things across Germany. There is an illegal Lithuanian refugee. There is a Polish girl who masquerades as Lithuanian in a time when anyone Polish is in mortal danger. Even though the book is slow, there is tension building up as secrets are revealed and we start hurtling towards the end and inevitable destruction of our feelings. You remember that post i wrote a long time ago about how I am a heartless monster who never cries over books?? I cried this time. In fact, I sobbed. This book put my life in danger, you guys. It is not safe to have tears streaming down your face while you are simply trying your best to be responsible and drive to work.
4) The book is 80% slow, quiet things, and 20% exciting things. You know how in the synopsis it talks about a ship? Well, the ship sinks. It’s not a spoiler, it’s history. So most of the book is pretty much filler. It’s super interesting filler and I loved every second of it, but if you’re looking for an exciting plot this isn’t it I personally prefer slow, character driven stories vs. fast, exciting plot driven stories, though. I thought it was still really engaging, though: the character’s narratives were super interesting, and the audiobook narrators sucked me into the story.
5) I really felt like I was there. I don’t read a ton of WWII historical fiction, not because I don’t like it but because sometimes it just doesn’t grip me emotionally like it should. (e.g., The Book Thief, Between Shades of Grey, etc.) This one did. I felt like I was there, in war-torn East Prussia, in the shoes of Joana, Emilia, Florian, and that other guy whose name I am too lazy to go look up. It was a really emotional read for me because of that.
Have you read any of Ruta Sepety’s books? Do you like slow, build-up stories or fast, exciting stories? How do you feel about audiobooks?
Content guide: There was some light profanity. One character recalls, with no detail, that she was raped by Russian soldiers.