Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical fiction, YA
As soon as I found out that Sepetys was releasing another book, the excitement levels were high. I absolutely adored her other two stand-alone novels, Out of the Easy and Between Shades of Gray. Historical fiction is also my favourite genre along with fantasy so to see a new one on the shelves got me seriously eager to read it. While the story was truly heart-breaking, I didn’t entirely enjoy it; struggling to connect to the characters and the abrupt ending to name a few problems. The writing was still beautiful though and Sepetys managed to translate a very sad story in a delicate, meaningful way.
The story follows four main characters during WW2 who are all looking to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship that will take them to safety. Throughout the book, the narrative changes between characters so you get to see the situation through their eyes every step of the way. In principle, this should make for a more well-rounded novel, especially since all four of the narrators have different nationalities and motives. but it left me, personally, feeling disconnected from them because the perspectives jumped so quickly. I think, perhaps, four different viewpoints was too many for a 400 page book and, had I understood the characters more, I would have been more affected by the tragic events that ensued throughout. It wasn’t until about a quarter of the way through that I was able to remember what the age of each character was and where they were from which I found took away from the whole experience. I normally find that when authors choose to write dual/multiple perspectives, the writing style differs between each person to make it easier to differentiate between characters but this was not the case in Salt to the Sea so that may have been another issue too.
Of the four protagonists, my favourite was Joana, the Lithuanian nurse. Through the entire book, you could see just how much she wanted to help anyone and everyone. Her unconditional need to assist where she could was really heartwarming and inspiring. She was genuinely touched by the horrific events that occurred throughout and her distress when she lost those closest to her was communicated so realistically. I also think her mothering instinct really came to show with Emilia, the 15-year old Polish girl, who had secrets of her own. I think that was one of the most striking aspects of the novel actually. Secrecy rarely springs to mind when I think of the impact of war on civilians. Everyone told lies to survive and it was eye-opening to see how necessary it was to do so.
The plot was very well directed in my opinion. I think the emphasis was more on the individuals and the emotional feeling towards them but without that, the actual story had little going for it. Unfortunately I didn’t with the characters or the story much so I felt like there was something missing from it by the end.
Sepetys’ writing didn’t fail me though. Her writing is simple but beautiful. There were some moments were I just read a line and felt so in-awe of how the words sounded together. I’ve come to appreciate the art of writing and the manipulation of words in the forming of memorable quotes.
If Salt to the Sea is anything, it is tragic. It’s a novel set during the Second World War and the harsh reality of war is expressed here. When reading the Author’s Note at the end, Ruta Sepetys said, ‘Please, give them a voice’ and I think that is such a powerful message. It can sometimes be hard to comprehend the masses of people who have died in any war but we can’t let their death just become a statistic. They were real people with real families and real lives and we can’t forget that.
– – – – – – – – POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Update – – – – – – – –
A book with a blue cover ✓
A book that was published in 2016 ✓
Happy Reading Bookworms!