After seeing this book won the Goodreads Choice Award and receiving so many positive, 5-stars review, I was eager to read this book. And you know what usually happens every time I dive in with a lot of expectation. I get disappointed 😦 I truly don’t want to be the black sheep (again), but in the end, it was just an okay read for me. It might be because historical fiction isn’t my preferable genre, but probably not.
It was one of the thing I loved most from this book. Salt to the Sea is a story about 4 people trying to fight for their lives during the World War II. Each has their own secrets, and each has their own goals as well. Reading this made me realize that apparently, I didn’t know that much about WWII aside from what happened in Asia. The thing is, WWII was an exceptionally dark time for my country because we were under Japanese colonialism, after 350 years of suffering under the Dutch colony. We declared our independence in August 1945 after the US dropped the nuclear bomb in Japan, leading to the fall of the Axis. Therefore, our history lesson mostly revolves around it. But I digress…
My point is that this book… this book made me learn. Two chapters in and I decided to do a thorough research of WWII to refresh my memory. If I could only pick one good thing from this book, it’s that this book made me smarter.
However, nothing much actually happened in the book. The present plot is basically our characters trying to survive, trying to board a ship, boarding a ship, and trying to save their lives when things go ugly. The rest is flashback of each character’s past… WHICH I LOVED. I love flashback and getting to know everyone’s back story so I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. It was realistic, gripping, intense, and simply tragic. Every war story is tragic, and this isn’t an exception. It made me want to keep reading to find out what happens next.
One other thing that prevented me from loving the book was that I was accidentally spoiled! Some reviewer mentioned what tragedy the story was about and I didn’t know that before. But then I did and it just gave away the ‘big thing’ that was going to happen and it definitely ruined the element of surprise for me.
This, however, is the one thing that I don’t completely love from the book. I’m all for a lot of different characters and multiple POVs but this one, the characterization, didn’t work out the way I hoped it would be.
I felt indifferent towards JOANA. I mean, I loved her narrating voice and her back story and all that, I just… didn’t connect with her. There’s a lot of things I didn’t understand about her and it just made me feel detached. I also didn’t like the way EVERYONE keep saying how pretty she is. Pretty Joana, pretty nurse this, pretty nurse that, I mean, I GOT IT… she’s incredibly gorgeous even with sleepless eyes and dirt on her face. Can we please move on?
I love FLORIAN because he’s so complicated, manipulative, and realistic yet he still has conscience. His character development was also A+++ and it was wonderful to see. However, I clearly, clearly didn’t ship him and Joana. I just didn’t feel the chemistry and though it was slow burning, I still thought it was kind of rushed? I don’t know what I’m talking about at this point.
ALBERT is the most different of them all. His POV was different and somehow made me feel even more detached. It was like he wasn’t there, he kept talking to someone that wasn’t even in the story instead of actually narrating the story. I also didn’t like his personality. He was selfish, greedy, and kind of twisted. He also looked down on a lot of people, especially women. He even blamed women for getting pregnant during wartime! I mean… hello? It takes two to make a baby. He was a bit of a jerk… which was still forgivable to some level, but the real bummer here was that he had zero character development 😦
My favorite character would be EMILIA. I fell in love with her narrating voice ever since her first chapter. Out of all the characters, Emilia probably went through the worst and shittiest life despite her young age. She changed so much from a scared, clingy teenage girl to a brave, sincere, and strong young woman. I just, I completely adored her character development, it was THE BEST out of all the characters!
Well… I loved it, I really did. I especially love the short chapters, it shows the urgency and the chaos and I loved how Ruta Sepentys managed to insert different voices for each characters. This is one example of multiple POV done right. It’s also a major page turner and I finished it in less than a day, which is saying a lot because I usually take a long time to finish historical fiction.
ALL IN ALL, Salt to the Sea is an amazing story of a tragedy unknown to most people. It was sad, tragic, and intense. However, my issue with the characters (along with me getting unsolicited spoilers) prevented me from completely loving the book. Buuut I learned a lot from this book and I’m sure this will be the perfect book for the historical fiction fans out there!
Book title : Salt to the Sea
Author : Ruta Sepetys
Publisher : Philomel Books
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.
Have you read Salt to the Sea? What do you think about it? Would love to hear your thoughts! Also I’m kind of interested to read more books about WWII so shoot me some recommendations! ♥
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