Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical Fiction
POV: First person, past tense. Multiple narrators.
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
About the Book (from author’s website)
In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
A tribute to the people of Lithuania, Poland, and East Prussia, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.
I love Ruta Sepetys. I loved Between Shades of Gray, and still recommend it to every person alive. I was trilled that Ruta Sepetys was writing a new book. I was thrilled that it was another World War II book. It became my most anticipated book of 2016.
Maybe this book deserves more than 3 stars. Perhaps my high expectations and overwhelming disappointment has jaded my rating. But it was hopelessly disappointing. I just. Ugh.
I don’t understand why this book was written with multiple perpectives. At all. “But Rivka,” you say, “She was trying to connect you with more characters!” While that might have been well intentioned, it didn’t work. She tried to make you see things from each character’s point of view, so much so, that she refused to tell you things that were going on with another character, even though you are reading through their eyes!!
Example: Joana does not know things about Florian, therefore, the reader must not know said things about Florian. So even though you get to see the story through Florian’s eyes, you don’t really know what is going on with him. Also, because you see from Florian’s perspective, and he does not know things about Joana, the reader also must not know said things about Joana.
Can you see my frustration? You never really get to know the characters because then there would not be big reveals later in the story!
Character connection should NEVER be sacrificed for big reveals later in the story.
I LIKE dramatic irony. When done well, it makes a story so much better. It should have been used here.
I absolutely hated Alfred’s point of view, for entirely different reasons. I don’t even know where to begin with him. He was annoying and lazy and useless. I just hated him. It did not take too long for me to figure out that his chapters barely influenced the story. So I started skimming them. Then skipping them all together. I don’t understand why he was included.
The ending of the book was confusing. I had to read it twice to really understand what happened with the characters. Even so, it is not the clearest.
On a more positive note, this is a good book. Just not a great book.
After about I read about 60 pages, I put it aside. When I picked it back up again, my expectations were greatly lowered, and I liked it better.
This is written in the same beautiful, lyrical style that I came to love in Between Shades of Gray. Even though I did not care for the techniques employed, I still recognize that the writing is beautiful.
The chapters are short. Very short. I LOVE short chapters. In this case, it helped me read the book quicker because I would read just one more chapter.
As with all of Ruta Sepetys’ books, this is a part of history not really talked about. I think I had only heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff once before, and that was only because my cousin is really into World War II. That is a great thing about this book; I was more interested in learning about the Wilhelm Gustloff and baffled at how much hidden history there is.