As I mentioned previously, I’m not well practiced at this book review thing. I understand that most bloggers are reviewing book fresh off the presses and not books that were released almost a year ago, but I really loved this book and I wanted to share what I thought about it in a greater way.
I’m sure I will develop a style and eventual be reviewing books that are closer to their release date than this one, but, as I have said before, I don’t want to start doing something when I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing. I want to practice first.
For this review, I have styled it after other bloggers that I’ve been reading recently. I’m sure I’ll tweak it a little as I write more.
Anyway, here is the first installment of my book reviewing:
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published February 2nd, 2016
Publishing house: Philomel Books
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
My Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.
I picked up this book because I had read Sepetys book Between Shades of Gray last year and I loved it. I’m don’t read a lot of historical fiction, so Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea had much heavier topics than the books I usually read. The characters actions have (sort of) real life implications. I found that refreshing, slightly depressing because both of these books are set in World War II, but refreshingly different from what I usually read.
Salt to the Sea has many of the same deep emotions running through the characters as Sepetys previous book, which I loved. It follows four different teenagers from various countries with very different motives trying to get to the MV Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea in January 1945. As the summary above states, each of the four narrating characters has a major secret; something else that personal drama to the mirror the horrific things that were going on around them as they make their way to the Baltic.
I greatly enjoyed the different points of view, Sepetys is able to capture the different personalities of these teenagers, from Alfred’s self-righteousness to Emilia’s innocence. I’ve read books where the point of view switches and it just comes across completely jumbled, but Sepetys creates very different voices for each of their characters. Even without the heading at each chapter, it’s easy to tell which one of the narrators is telling that part of the story within a couple sentences.
What I loved about this book is personal drama. I think it would have been easy to write a novel that just revolved around getting to the Baltic, but the personal stories, each so different, gives the story richness. Three of the narrations overlap for most of the story, and the fourth starts around two-thirds of the way through, yet the very different personalities of these young people are clear from the beginning. My personal favorite was Emilia. I felt that she had the greatest character arc. However, all four have a solid storyline that has the reader asking questions and turning pages.
Each of these characters, as well as the supporting cast, have realized and developed motives and identities, it’s easy to get lost with different narrators, but this book clearly differs as it switches point of view. The same character sees the supporting cast just a little bit differently. I thought that was an interesting way of showing how different each of these young people is; how different every person in existence is.
What I didn’t particularly like about this story is that it wraps up very quickly. There is a conclusion, a good one at that, but the big event that is the center of the story sort of drops off. I think I understand the reasons this was done, but still, I would have a liked a little bit more there.
Overall I loved this book, as I mentioned before I don’t read that much historical fiction, so this was a nice change for my usual reading material. This is a well written and deeply emotional story that comes highly recommended from me. Although I would have loved a bit more resolution, I thought the writing and overall craftsmanship of this novel was fantastic. I will be picking up more books by this author in the future.
As an aside: I didn’t know anything about the Wilhelm Gustloff before reading this book. If you plan to read this book and don’t know about that ship, don’t google it (major spoilers). I’m the type of person that likes to read Wikipedia articles about historical events that correspond with what I’m reading or watching (it took me forever to finish the first episode of The Crown) and I’m really glad that I fought the impulse with this one.
Until next time Internet,
Books Read in 2017: 2