I’m going to start this review off with a question.
Do you ever finish reading a book and just feel so attached to the characters, that you feel a little sad that the book is over?
Well, I have that current feeling after finishing this book. Very few standalone books give me that particular feeling.
Salt to the Sea is a historical fiction novel by Ruta Sepetys. I have read each of Ruta’s three novels and she is definitely one of my favorite authors now! If you love historical fiction or even if you don’t, you will love her take on the genre!
Back to the book, Salt to the Sea takes place in the winter of 1945, during WWII. There are four main characters joana, florian, emilia, and alfred. You will fall in love with these four main characters as well as the other supporting characters Ingrid, Sorry Eva, the wandering boy Klaus, and the Shoe poet.
Each of their stories are told from their own point of view, something that is executed really well. joana, florian, and emilia, along with the four supporting characters, cross each other’s path by trying to seek refuge from the Russians and Stalin. They are all headed to board ships that will take them to safety and freedom. Alfred is a sailor aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, the ship that all the characters– except for two — eventually board themselves.
I will forewarn you that this book is based upon a terrible tragedy that most, including myself, have never learned about or heard of prior to coming across this book. This terrible tragedy is the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff caused by a torpedo attack by a Russian submarine. Over 9,000 people died due to that sinking because the ship was highly overcrowded and not enough lifeboats. This tragedy is the worst in maritime history.
Knowing this beforehand will definitely prepare you that there will be loss in this book. However, there are also moments of romance and laughter. There will be moments where you find yourself smiling as you read, but of course, there will be times where you find yourself dreading the moment that you always knew would happen. The moment the ship gets attacked and starts to sink.
Now, that you know a little bit about the book, let’s talk about what I overall liked and disliked about the book.
As far as what I liked about the book, everything. I loved how the characters each had their own experiences and stories to tell, but yet they all eventually come together and become part of each other’s stories. I loved how even though there were four main characters, you fall in love with the other characters and the tiny bits of pieces of their stories that you get from the point of view of the main’s.
I also love how Ruta writes about the untold stories of history. The first book of hers that I ever read was Between Shades of Gray, which I would definitely recommend reading prior to this. I love reading her books like this because while the characters and their stories are fiction, the events surrounding them or basis of their stories are real; I feel as though I’m learning something new, without having to open up a history book. However, reading this book has made me want to research more about this particular event.
Another thing that I will point out is there is a particular part in the story, where joana mentions the title of the novel. As you read it, knowing the title’s true meaning that is given in the book, you will really feel a tug on your heartstrings.
Even though I have given this book 5 stars, there is one thing that I did dislike about it. I felt as though the ending was very abrupt and rushed. Knowing that this book is based upon a particular event, you sort of just assume that the event is going to take place within the majority of the book, but it doesn’t.
The sinking of the ship itself only took around an hour, so I’m wondering if maybe that was Ruta’s intention. Plus, I think that I was just so involved with the characters and the story that I didn’t want it to end, so that could also be why I felt it was rushed.
So, would I recommend this book? YES!!!!!! READ IT!!! DO IT!! YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!!!
I also would recommend reading Ruta’s other books, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. (Book reviews on these coming at a later date!)
And again I would like to add that you should read Between Shades of Gray first because it takes place prior to this book and a character from that book is in Salt to the Sea! Just saying!
Happy Reading! 🙂