Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
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.
The Wilhelm Gustloff was pregnant with lost souls conceived of war. They would crowd into her belly and she would give birth to their freedom. But did anyone realize? The ship was christened for a man. Wilhelm Gustloff. My father had told me about him. He had been the leader of the Nazi Party in Switzerland.
He was murdered. The ship was born of death.
I don't really know what I think about this book. It is not a bad book, not at all, but it also wasn't what I had imagined. I'm not disappointed exactly but looking back I would have expected more.
First of all, the perspectives constantly changed. Each chapter was told from one of four perspectives and the chapters lasted for a span of a couple sentences to 5 pages at most, maybe 6 I'm not quite sure. While this does not particularly bother me (though I know a few of people who don't like rapid perspective changes), it also took away from the connection I could have been able to form with the characters. Their heartaches were compressed to a couple of pages, if they were lucky, and then I was separated from them. I simply felt like I didn't have the chance to connect with them, to feel part of their being, to long as they were longing - apart from the obvious "I wish the war were over/had never happened".
The writing, although it had some beautiful passages, was rather bland. Well not really but compared to both other WWII stories and other books I had recently read. Again, this doesn't really bother me but I believe it would have made up for the lack of connection to the characters. I often find that beautiful writing will put me straight into a characters mind. In this book, however, I was never able to form such a bond because of the writing. At least, apart from those few passages I just mentioned which, just to prove my point, I always found very hard hitting. I don't think that every author has to write as beautifully as people like Leslye Walton but it can make up for other things lacking.
Even though the story moved me, I think it mostly did so because I was thinking about the actual tragedy and not about the people portrayed in this book. This is tied to the two points I pointed out above, but all I could think about were history lessons, documentaries, other books about the WWII, and so on and so forth. Although this could have enhanced the story, it rather replaced it in my mind.
Obviously, I love Sepetys choice of historical events. I had never heard of it and I love learning new things, even if they are sad things. Something like this should not be forgotten. I honestly think that the characters and such will fade from my mind rather quickly and I'll only remember the event itself. Luckily, that serves the purpose.
I'd also like to mention that this was a very quick read. As I said before, the chapters alternate very quickly and pages are often pretty empty. Also, the font (at least in my library's edition) is pretty big. This is why I practically flew through the book once I actually started reading (I was reeling for a little bit after I read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender), which is always nice.
Now, although this must sound pretty negative I want to stress that this really was anything but a bad book. I can totally see other people loving it - I just don't. I like it but, in retrospect, I would have hoped for more.
This is a rather tricky one. While I was reading, I was thinking of giving this book 4/5 stars but now that I'm looking back at it I think it's "only" a 3/5 stars book for me. So, yeah, 3/5 stars it is.
Name: Salt to the Sea
Deutscher Titel: Salz für die See
Author: Ruta Sepetys