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Alan, Chobham Academy Book Group

Salt to the Sea

Set during World War II, Salt to the Sea focuses on four young people and their experience of real events that until now I’d never heard of. History is the book’s biggest strength; these events were new to me, and I wanted to know more. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the characters.

The narrative is split between all four young people, each speaking in first-person, but often these voices feel artificial. Characters will think – or speak – in unnatural ways, using words that don’t fit their roles. Each character lapses into riddles for the books first half to keep secrets from the reader: for instance, one refers to “the item” to avoid revealing what that item is even when thinking to themselves. These characters never come to life, their service to the plot preventing most from forming their own voice until very late on.

Which is a shame, because Ruta Spetys can write and the book is excellent in other areas. Her descriptions of wartime atrocities are startlingly direct, reflecting how witnessing these awful things has hardened those affected. These moments are powerful to the end, and carried me through to the end.

The book is worth a read for intrigue and for learning about wartime events you may not have come across before, but for me is a good example that you don’t have to love every book you read – you can dislike a book as long as you are able to explain why, and then go on to try something else!

Posted on: 4th May 2017 at 09:53 am

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