Florian: a young artist trying to make it back home to his younger sister. Emilia: a pregnant teenager aching to live back on her farm again. Joana: a nurse, riding off of the hope that her family will still be alive when she returns home after the war. Alfred: a recruitment sailor recovering from recent heartbreak. All of them have different secrets, all of them have one goal. Survival. It’s the winter of 1945, and Russia and Germany have been divided. Millions have been left without asylum, fending for themselves during the murderous winter season. Fate is a hunter, and it leads them together, creating a family. Aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, their supposed saviour, the three meet Alfred. Their wildest dreams turn into their own personal nightmare, enabling their true personalities and secrets to be introduced.
Salt to the Sea, written by Ruta Sepetys is historical fiction, meaning that much of the writing is based on true events. However, the characters and much of the smaller details are made up for the purpose of the storyline. It is set during the winter of 1945, during the time in history where Hitler and Stalin were clashing immensely, resulting in the loss of millions and millions of lives. It was refreshing to focus on more of the Baltic states as opposed to the numerous lessons about Germany, France, England, and Russia that we often hear in history class.
Like the other books that I have read of hers, Ruta Sepetys does a phenomenal job of giving each character their own individual voice. The chapters alternated between each character telling their side of the story. As an example, Florian would say his thoughts as an event happened, and then Emilia’s chapter would begin, recounting the exact same event but in her voice instead. It was written in first person, similar to a diary form.
Overall, I would rate this book a 5/5 stars. It has so far been the best book that I have ever read. I am never disappointed by Ruta’s works, and cannot wait to see what the future has in store for her. Each character’s personality traits were easily distinguished, and their recounts of similar stories never got boring, as they were all extremely unique ways of looking at them. On the contrary, I was not used to the abrupt (but effective) writing style that involved switching between different minds. Therefore, it took me until about page 74 to realize who was who. Once I got over that obstacle, however, the book was effective and moving at the same time. I would recommend Salt to the Sea to any avid reader above the age of 14, as it does deal with difficult, controversial topics that can be hard to swallow.
Book Reviewed By Anna Cumming
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