Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

  • Ruta Sepetys
  • Penguin Random House UK Children’s
  • 4th February, 2016
  • Children’s fiction, Teens & YA

It’s early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore’s The Siege will be totally absorbed. This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all were drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.

This is such a beautifully written and looking book. Just look at it. B E A U T I F U L.

Sea to the Salt gave me such mixed feelings. I loved every single character, except one. Alfred. He’s such an unlikeable character. I seriously wanted to punch him every time he was mentioned. I do understand the importance of him, but the meaning of him comes too late in the story to be successful. I think I just really really disliked this guy.

The other thing that really got on my nerves was character’s names, especially Joana (pronounced Yo-ar-nah). Yes, it is a beautiful name and it was around the time story had happened. The reason I disliked it because originally it’s not Lithuanian and it is pronounced differently in English speaking countries and since I am Lithuanian, it is a big deal for me.

Other than that, characters themselves are amazing. There are many of them and it’s a bit confusing at first. The reason for that is that they all come into the story quickly and they all come from different ages , backgrounds and they all have different stories to tell. Sea to the Salt is told from their point of view, allowing reader get deeper in the story from all the angles.It is constantly moving revealing unknown details and character secrets.

I knew nothing about Gustloff tragedy before I read this book and I cannot understand why it’s been hidden from history books. Ruta Sepetys did amazing research on this tragedy and brought it to live beautifully and with great skill.

Overall, Salt to the Sea is a beautiful piece of art that deserves attention and praise to the author. It’s hard to find historical fiction that is both emotional and gripping, but you can find both it this book.

And just if you wondering, there is the picture of great Gustloff ship that sunk 31st January, 1945.


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I received a review copy from publisher through Netgalley for honest opinion. Nobody paid me to write this.