Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

28103790Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Publication Date: 
February 4th 2016 by Puffin
Rating: 4 Stars
Historic, Young Adult, World War II.
Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones
Goodreads Summary
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.

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it definitely did not disappoint. Salt to the Sea focuses on the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II. I had only ever heard of the Gustloff in passing and this book truly opened my eyes to the scope of this tragedy. The death toll came to a total of over 9000 and close to half of the number was made up by children, yet this maritime tragedy is often overlooked in history.

Salt to the Sea follows the journey of four young individuals that find themselves aboard the ship. Florian, Emilia, Joana and Alfred all have a story to tell. Coming from four different backgrounds each character has their own reasons for seeking refuge aboard the Gustloff. I loved seeing how their paths eventually twine together and exploring the connection they build with one another. Personally I loved Joana’s voice and it was definitely the easiest to follow as she sought to lend a helping to hand to anyone that was in need. However, when it comes to the characters I must say that Emilia’s journey was the one that touched me the most. Her bravery and her hope in the face of such hardships and tragedy was such a testament to her strength and my heart ached for her. Florian was a bit of a mystery to me at first but by the end I was completely enamoured by him. However, not all of the characters are likeable and it was interesting to see the differences in their voices with regards to their ideologies and attitude towards the war.

Another stand out in the book is the fact that each chapter is no more than 3 pages long. This was an effective move in terms of keeping the pace going but that did mean that it took me longer to emotionally connect with the characters, hence the four star rating. I feel like the chapters could have benefitted from being a little longer just so I could appreciate the quieter, tender moments a bit more.

From beginning to end, Salt to the Sea highlights the true horrors of war. The book details the desperation of a population that has grown weary of the day to day fears they face in their search for refuge and explores the lengths they would go to to ensure their survival. More than anything Salt to the Sea drives home the fact that there are no real victors in war and I would urge you to read this book.


16 thoughts on “Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

  1. I really want to read this book! It’s been on my TBR for a while now. Other books just keep getting in the way. I really need to make it a priority. Thanks for this review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand how the book can get lost in the shuffle. It’s happened to me so many times, I just can’t keep track of all the books haha. I hope if you do get round to reading the book you enjoy it as much as I did. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! Salt to the Sea is such an amazing book. Emilia’s story was so incredibly touching! I want to sob just thinking about this book but it was completely worth it. I haven’t read Between Shades of Grey yet but after reading Salt to the Sea I definitely want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My heart shattered for Emilia and that final chapter absolutely tore me to shreds and don’t even get me started on the shoe poet and little Klaus. This book will definitely stay with me for a very long time and it’s such an important story to tell in terms of highlighting this tragedy. I am definitely going to be picking up Between Shades of Grey in the near future.


    1. The book definitely packed a punch and I was holding back the tears towards the end. It’s such an important story to tell because this tragedy is so overlooked. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. ;D

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t often reach for historicals, but my favourites are consistently these war-themed books esp ones that’s not afraid to go into dark places. This book sounds amazing and I will be steeling myself and my tear ducts for it. Glad to hear that the pacing was so well-done as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Historic novels are a hit or miss for me and I usually gravitate towards the world war based ones. Salt to the Sea definitely packs a few punches, especially in the last quarter of the book or so. I was definitely happy with the pacing even though it meant that it took longer to emotionally get invested in the story. It all pays off in the end though. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree! Before reading I had no idea about the Gustloff, so this was such an informative and eye-opening read. It’s shocking that a tragedy this big is so unknown and hidden. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it when books shine a light on incidents that go unnoticed in history and it does make me wonder why this tragedy was so overlooked, especially with how large the losses were. I mean the death toll basically triples that of the Titanic. I’m so glad I picked up this book. Thank you for your lovely comment. 😀


    1. This is such an important event in history and I still can’t quite understand how it’s gone overlooked for so long. Salt to the Sea is a story worth telling and I am excited to read more of Ruta’s books. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m pretty sure I read your review on Goodreads when you posted it on there but lovely review, Lois! I read some other reviews where readers mentioned how the short chapters/perspectives was both an advantage and downfall for this read as you said. And I can’t wait to get to meet Emilia, she sounds very extraordinary. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Summer. I definitely think the shortness of the chapters had it’s hits and misses but it didn’t make the scope of the event any less heartbreaking. I feel like you would definitely love her character and resiliance. I hope you enjoy the book when you get to reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

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