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Liv, Sir Harry Smith Community College

Salt to the Sea

I had forgotten what it felt like to eat a story, to devour every page. Reading Ruta Sepetys' 'Salt to the Sea' was a hauntingly beautiful read that I found myself swallowing whole. Its bittersweet taste had me turning each page, gripped to such a powerful story, and at times holding back my own salty tears.

To say that I loved such a cruel story would not be true, but I was in love with the way Sepetys wove the four stories together to create such a tragic and moving recount of events. 'Salt to the Sea' follows four young people as they try to hold their lives together as Europe is crumbling under the threat of the Russian 'Red Army'. All four have a common goal- to get to the 'Wilhelm Gustloff', a ship about to sail for freedom, carrying thousands of refugees to safety. Joana, a Lithuanian refugee and aspiring nurse, Florian, the mysterious German with a mysterious parcel, Emilia, a young Polish woman who has already experienced the evil of the Red Army and Alfred, the Nazi sailor oozing with self importance, become intertwined. Their paths cross, never to be untangled as they flee for their lives.

The brilliant and varied characterisations of each player results in such terrible events hitting home. In particular, I found myself hating Alfred with his racist, sexist and egotistical remarks one minute, and then I felt sympathy because of his deluded and outcast life. 'Salt to the Sea' left me feeling outraged at my own ignorance of a naval disaster 6 times more deadly than that of the Titanic. Sepetys not only gifted me with a powerful story, but also an insight into the events of the Second World War that were brushed under the carpet.
This book should be an obligatory read documenting one of the many events that the history books miss out. I find myself wishing I could read it again for the first time, to feel the sorrow behind the lives of so many, and the disgust that such a disaster occurred. Read Sepetys' book, cry at the hardships of those so bitterly discriminated against, learn from the mistakes of war, consider the parallels between those fleeing for their lives then and now.

Posted on: 30th April 2017 at 08:22 pm

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