Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I had no idea that this had happened. When people are asked to name massive ships sunk on the open sea, everyone knows about the Titanic and the Lusitania, but the Wilhelm Gustloff is not on anyone's radar. It really should be. The sheer loss of life from this single maritime disaster was and is astounding.
In this terrific piece of historical fiction, Sepety's masterfully weaves the stories of a ragtag group fleeing in front of the Soviet advance across former Prussian territory at the close of World War II, a young German naval recruit preparing the ship to sail, and a Prussian teen escaping his past. As the Soviets press the Nazis back, foreigners, the wounded, the sick, Jews and all others considered to be of lesser stock than themselves are all rounded up and either executed or shipped off to a gulag.

This truly is a wonderful and tragic story. Despite the fact that these characters were not real people, we get a real sense of what it must have been like to flee from the Soviet invasion from the East pressing toward the unknown of the German occupation farther West. Which empire is the lesser of the two evils?
I would highly recommend this to those that liked Code Name Verity or The Book Thief. 

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