Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

My first buddy read with the boyfriend! I am not into historical fiction as much as I’d like to be. However, I had suggested him Persepolis a few years ago and he did seem to like it.
Since he isn’t much of a reader I thought I’ll stick to the same genre and voila – He loved this book as much as I did. Now, I plan to slowly ease him into reading more books and accomplish my relationship goals ๐Ÿ˜›

Meanwhile, an in-depth review following my thoughts about it! ๐Ÿ˜›


Salt to the Sea

While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers โ€” the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 โ€” and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.


Salt to the Sea won the Best Young Adult Fiction Award on Goodreads in 2016 and it deserved every bit of it. This book left me a lot more emotional than I thought. It’s only the first book I read by her and it definitely wont be my last.

โ€œOn September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland from the west. On September 17, 1939, Russia invaded Poland from the east. I remembered these dates. Two warning nations gripped Poland like girls fighting over a doll. One held the leg, the other the arm. They pulled so hard that one day, the head popped off. The Nazis sent our people to ghettos and concentration camps. The Soviets sent our people to gulags and Siberia. I was nine years old when it started. People changed. Faces shrived and sunk, like baked apples. Neighbors spoke in whispers. I watched them play their games. I observed them when they werenโ€™t looking. I learned. But how long could I play this game? A ploy of war both outside and inside. What would happen if I actually made it to the West? Would I be able to reveal myself as Emilia Stoลผek, a girl from Lwรณw? Would Germany be safe for me? Once the war ended, which side would be the right side for a Pole?โ€

Written in multiple point of views, it tells the story of four individuals coming from different countries united amidst the war and their escape to safety. Joana, a Lithuanian Nurse, Florian – A Prussion on a mission, Emelia – A Pole that is pregnant, and Alfred – A brainwashed German Soldier that is definitely mentally disturbed.

We also have Heinz – the shoe poet and Klaus – the wandering boy along with Eva and Ingrid. Each playing a significant role in building the war tension.

It sheds light on one of the darkest periods of human history as a result of violence and desperation while highlighting the fight for basic survival.

“What had human beings become? Did war make us evil or just activate an evil already lurking within us?โ€

More died in the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff , carrying soldiers and thousands of civilians, many of them children during the World War II than on Titanic and Lusitania combined.
And yet, this incident is barely noted in history. If an incident with such gore intensity like this is forgotten, my heart aches thinking of all the small horrors the people had to endure.

There are so many war zone countries even today and what I have learned from history so far is that we haven’t learnt much from history.
It should be our moral obligation to learn from such events. If only we could promise to never let even the sliver of such horrors to repeat.

The Wilhelm Gustloff sank after being hit by Russian torpedoes on Jan. 30, 1945. More than 9,000 people died.

Towards the end of this book, I hoped Alfred would build some compassion and see what the war was doing to people but he was the rude, ignorant and utterly stupid personality inside out. On second thoughts though, the author stuck to the facts and remained true to the time of the story. She let the characters be confused, lost and disoriented because that’s what war does. doesn’t it?

I cannot recommend reading about this greatest disaster in maritime history enough.

โ€œAbandoned or separated from their families, they were forced to battle the beast of war on their own, left with an inheritance of heartache and resposibility for events they had no rile in causing.โ€

RATING: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…

Overall, this book is heartbreaking to an extent I had to put down the book to wipe the tears that were blurring my vision because some of the scenes in this book were so horrific I couldn’t bear feel goosebumps. So, if you looking for a light read this is definitely not it.
However, this definitely packs with it some much needed history lessons.


Published: February 2nd 2016
Genre: YA | Historical Fiction
Pages: 393
Publisher: Philomel Books

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