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Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9501455,825 (4.28)131
"As World War II draws to a close, refugees try to escape the war's final dangers, only to find themselves aboard a ship with a target on its hull"--
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» See also 131 mentions

English (140)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (143)
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
This is a YA historical fiction novel about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, which in 1945 at the close of World War II was sunk by Russian torpedoes in the Baltic Sea while it was ferrying ethnic Germans from East Prussia toward Kiel. The story focuses on the intertwining stories of four characters aboard the vessel: Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; Emilia, a pregnant Polish teenager; Florian, a Prussian soldier now on the run from the Nazis; and Albert, a loathsome Nazi sailor. The first three of these characters meet and travel together toward seeming salvation on the Gustloff, battling injury and wintry cold in an attempt to escape the approaching Red Army--only to board the ship with, of course, no knowledge of its impending doom.

I think that this book did a really good job of shedding light on the tragedy of the Gustloff, which I hadn't known about before. I was a little disconcerted by the chapter format at first (a lot of extremely short chapters, each from a different character's perspective) but ultimately I thought that it worked pretty well. I wasn't blown away by this book for some reason, and I might have liked a little bit more blurring of "good" and "evil" (basically, it felt as though everyone but Albert was very/almost wholly good, while Albert was pretty unquestionably evil), but I found it an engaging read, and I think I'd probably be inclined to pick up another of Ruta Sepetys's books sometime later. ( )
  forsanolim | Jun 12, 2020 |
Ruta Sepetys is a gifted author. This is the 2nd book by her I’ve read, both incredibly well-written. This book tells tragic, horrifying stories about the largest disaster in maritime history in a most dignified way. For example, no doubt rape occurred but it is disclosed in a subtle thoughtful way. Told from 4 characters’ POV, you fall in love with 3 of them & the people with whom they traveled. A fast read, worth every minute. ( )
  KarenMonsen | Jun 8, 2020 |
The best description for this book/series in 10 words or less:
"Four teenagers with completely different backgrounds come together to survive."

I have read Sepetys's first two novels and I thought this was the best one by far. This is an actual event that happened but both the Nazis and the Russian hid their loss/win because the war was pretty much over and it was accepted. The research put into this event really shows through the reactions of the fictional characters.

What I loved most was that the book was split into four alternating characters in first person. Changing characters and their ideas is a very difficult task especially if it's more than two, but Sepetys truly pulls off this arduous task. It was at first hard to follow the characters because there are four characters you have to get to know and be familiar with. This is the only issue I had with it but that's something that everyone will have an issue with at first.

The chapters were also very short, which made the novel read so quickly.

The characters were great and very diverse. Emilia is Polish and has to keep her identity hidden but she is also pregnant which means her life is double life or death. Joana is Lithuanian and she is a skilled nurse and feels the need to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Alfred Frick is Prussian and fairly loyal throughout the novel to gain favor with authorities, which shows how some military officers really were during World War II. Florian Beck is German and a traitor to his country, but that's because he follows his heart and does what he thinks is right.

Of course almost every young adult book, or even adult, has romance. But the romance does not take over the novel and simply enhances the novel to represent more on how high the stakes really are for all four characters.

The ending was not what most people would expect. It is not completely happy. There is a lot of turmoil that goes on even to the very end.

Refer to my blog for a different view of this review:

Check out other books in my personal library for reviews and recommendations:
https://literarymary.libib.com/ ( )
  Marilyn95 | Jun 7, 2020 |
Excellent multi-narrator account of the fleeing of refugees/wounded German soldiers, others from eastern Germany during the advance of the Russian forces. A fictionalized account of the torpedoed Wilhelm Gustloff which sunk with approx 9,000 passengers and crew drowned/trapped in the ship as it sunk. Teen narrators will help YA readers stay engaged as they struggle to reach the port city , gain the coveted boarding passes-and then try to survive when the ship is hit. Definitely an interesting moment in WWII history, but Sepetys skillfully uses the details of the war, the doomed ship, & thousands of displaced people, escaping renegades, recently orphaned/bereft children as the backdrop for the more personal dramas & crises of the main characters. Not too grim for readers nervous about too much graphic detail. ( )
  BDartnall | May 15, 2020 |
Couldn't put it down. Not usually a history novel fan, but this and her first (Between Shades of Gray) were enlightening. ( )
  sishpa | Apr 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Four out of five stars. I enjoyed most of this book. However some parts seemed unnecessary and a little slow but over all it was a nice quick read that kept me interested. I wish that there was more to the ending, it was a bit difficult to understand and I re-read it twice just to make sure I got the message on who Florian was reading the letter from. I thought it was a great YA read with nice use of language and context. Alfred was annoying, and after reading a few of his chapters it was refreshing to know that even the other soldiers thought so too. Sepetys really did a great job developing the characters, making you love some of them, feel sorry for some, feel sad for some and be annoyed with some.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruta Sepetysprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crouch, MichaelNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damron, WillNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marie, JorjeanaNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, CassandraNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Library, ListeningPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We the survivors are not the true witnesses. The true witnesses, those in possession of the unspeakable truth, are the drowned, the dead, the disappeared. -Primo Levi
For my father.

My hero.
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Guilt is a hunter.
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