Book Review: Salt to the Sea

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Title: Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Date Published: February 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

I have a  confession to make.

Many weeks, months after purchasing, Suite Francaise and All the Light We Cannot See are still sitting on my bookshelf, gathering dust!

I know.  I know.

But I have concluded that I am putting them off because  I have heard so many good reviews that I have romanticised the whole process of reading them… You know, waiting for the perfect time that I can curl in my bed with a great cup of tea, my devices on aeroplane mode with no agenda except powering through either one of them. Well, that’s not happened since other elements of life can’t be ignored.

That said, I still could not help to reach out to Net Galley for a  free copy of Salt to the Sea (in exchange for an honest review) after  I heard about it from Booktuber  Regan from Peruse Project. Plus since it was published in early 2016, the likelihood of finding it in my local bookstore will be delayed to the latter part of the year and for some reason, I could not wait that long.

Now to the important parts:

I was thinking how I could succinctly summarise this book without including spoilers but words simply failed me. So I decided that I would let the author do it for me:

My thoughts?

We, the survivors are not the true witnesses. The true witnesses, those in possession of the unspeakable truth, are the drowned, the dead, the disappeared

The opening lines from Italian Holocaust survivor,  Primo Levi typically sum up this book. I was really astonished to find out the M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff is a lesser known maritime disaster and yet it had more casualties than the Titanic  Ms Sepetys invites readers to catch a glimpse into how life might have been in leading to this disaster  and the end of WWII  but through the lives of a  young Lithuanian nurse, a  gifted Prussian artist, a pregnant Polish girl and an enthusiastic German recruit.

Being a fan of historical fiction, I enjoyed the way Ms Sepetys was able to distill deep moments into such simple language that can be read by readers of all ages which is a definitely a mark of a good author. This can also be attributed to her own journey in discovering more about her Lithuanian roots. The attention to cultural detail automatically transports you to  World War II and the use of flashbacks enables the reader to get better understanding of the four protagonists’motives and prejudices.  The secondary characters like the Shoe Poet add depth to the story as he acts their voice of reason albeit fatherly figure.

Countries that formed the former USSR are still a  mystery to me, so Salt to the Sea definitely illuminated a part of WWII history that I  am eager to learn more about. I felt that I would have had a better reading experience if I used a hard copy because of my snobbish tendencies but I am still on the lookout so that I can do a re-read.

Final verdict:: I would love for this book to be turned into a screenplay and I can’t wait to dive into the author’s other works.

You might also be interested in 9Books to read on WWII and the Holocaust and Sanne of Books and Quills interviewing Ruta Sepetys on Between Shades of Grey

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