Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Read by: Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, and Michael Crouch
The year is 1945 and World War II is raging. Its winter in Germany, and four teenagers are being impacted by the war in very different ways. Walking down very different paths, the four characters each have the same end goal: get aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that is taking on refugees and promises to deliver them to safety.
The Genre: I have always loved history, it was tied with English as my favorite subject in high school. When I travel, I’m all about visiting historical sites and learning more (for example, while in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor was the #1 activity on my to-do list, even before the beach), and history books are about the only non-fictional books I can stand to read. So, it’s not surprising that historical fiction is one of my favorites. I find it so interesting to hear stories (even if they’re not 100% real) from times in the past. I also like the glimpses into history that you get from reading historical fiction – you learn small truths about history throughout, and almost each time I’m done with a historical fiction book, I find myself doing research or reading up on the topic or era that I just read about. World War II is one of the subjects that I can’t get enough of (sorry, I know that sounds morbid, but I just find it so fascinating and I really enjoy – is that an okay word to use? – learning about it), so I was totally into this book.
The Characters: During tragic times there are all types of people. There are good people, helpless people, naïve people, bad people… too many different kinds to list, and this book introduces you to all those different kinds. My initial reaction upon realizing this story was told from four perspectives was that there may be a lack of character building, but the way that all of the characters were portrayed was FANTASTIC. I even had strong opinions about secondary characters! After careful deliberation, I will simply say that I think my favorite character is Klaus, and my least favorite character is Alfred.
The Story and the History: This story is a heartbreaking one, but the look into history was perfect (at least in my opinion). This demonstrated the hold that the Nazi’s had over the people of Germany, how influential they could be, and how people were sucked into their propaganda. It also showed how horribly people considered inferior were treated, the difficulties that they faced, and how terrible the conditions that they dealt with were. I found it very thought provoking, a bit of a reminder to count your blessings, because although we certainly have injustice today, I’m not sure that it measures up to the injustice that existed in the past.
I want to end my review by ending with a few thoughts from the author that were read at the end of the audiobook. I found them incredibly thought provoking, and a wonderful encouragement to continue to read historical fiction and historical non-fiction.
“When the survivors are gone, we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice.”
– Ruta Sepetys
If you’ve read this, who was your favorite and least favorite character? If you haven’t read this, what are your thoughts on the historical fiction genre?