Salt to the Sea is one of the best pieces of historical fiction I have ever read. Not only does it tell the story from a different perspective (four teenagers who are from different countries and AREN’T jews), but it comprehensively tells the story from the switching perspectives of these four teenagers as their history and future unwinds. It was beautiful.
- I really enjoyed the format the story was told in. All four narrators (Joana, Florian, Alfred, and Emilia) were from different countries and situations, but were all extremely affected by the war.
- Florian warmed my heart and was a true hero. He is just such a genuine guy and always (however reluctantly) has to help people.
- Emilia and her story constantly surprised me and kept me wondering what would happen next.
- Joana is a caring and competent character, but really becomes better when she is with other people (doesn’t really matter who, but people make her more interesting *cough* *Florian and Klaus*).
- I felt like Alfred was missing substance for most of the story. He was a despicable character who had been brainwashed by Hitler and really just wanted to make a name for himself and become famous. The worst and most annoying part is that he went about it in the absolute worst way and was terrible to most of the people he deemed “below him” (even though he wasn’t a high ranking person).
- Some of my favorite characters were the secondary ones such as the Shoe Poet (Heinz) because he was so loving and cared about Klaus so deeply, the wandering boy (Klaus) because he showed how age didn’t matter when it came to the war’s devastation (also, he is the innocence of the story, and I hope he got to hold on to a little of it despite all he endured), and Sorry Eva (who also annoyed me a lot, but was still funny at times).
I read this book because this year’s Academic Decathlon (nerd competitions) theme is WW2, and so I wanted to slowly drift in the direction of the required reading while still learning more about WW2. Even though it was fiction, I still learned a lot, and some of it was based off of real events. It made me think about different perspectives in the war and how many different groups were affected by the war.
“No one wanted to fall into the hands of the enemy. But it was growing harder to distinguish who the enemy was.” (21)
“If you observe carefully, dear, you won’t have to ask.” (128)
“I became good at pretending. I became so good that after a while the lines blurred between my truth and fiction. And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself.” (147)
“Yes, it is calming in an indescribable way to find oneself. Few men have the opportunity. I am one of those men. I now understand what it is to feel superior. And I quite like it.” (277)
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.