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Judetta, Chobham Academy Book Group

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea is a story about four teenage refugees named Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred respectively, who are on a journey trying to make their way onto a ship named the Wilhelm Gustloff where they hope to find shelter and happiness. Throughout the book the characters learn how to trust one another while being hunted by guilt, fate, shame and fear as they attempt to find hope in place filled with doubts.

In contrast to many teen fiction novels, Salt to the Sea is definitely unique due to its detailed historical context and its four person perspective which really helps readers to visualize what each refugee is going through which I found really effective. The book is targeted for teenage audiences and it should definitely please many adults. This book is definitely one that anyone can relate to since it really helps you to open up your eyes about how some people suffer in the world especially with the refugee crisis today in many parts of the world. The storyline of this novel is deeply touching and really encourages you to make a difference in the world towards helping others to find happiness.

The story is told from a four-person narrative first person perspective by Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred who are four refugees from four different backgrounds that are all connected since they are all on the same journey. The fact that the book focuses on the perspective of four different people helps us to learn more about the characters’ backstories and experiences separately so that we can also compare the characters and understand how they are all connected on the journey. The author is able to explain the character’s emotions in excellent detail while using historical evidence to make their stories really come to life. She is also able to link their perspectives together so that we understand where each character is in the story. This is evident when she makes each of their passages begin or end with the same word/phrase. There is a big difference with the character’s personalities since they are all completely different people. Joana is a kind Lithuanian nurse; Florian is a young Prussian apprentice, Emilia is a fifteen year old Polish girl and Alfred is a Nazi sailor. Throughout the book, the characters develop and form strong bonds between each other. Their narrations are able to fully capture their experiences and emotions.

Salt to the Sea is well-structured and powerfully written. I was impressed with how it balances history and teen fiction- you could really tell that colossal amounts of research had been put into this novel. The characters are very interesting and relatable. Throughout the story, they learn more about each other and develop close relationships. I mainly enjoyed reading about the chemistry between Joana and Florian which is almost like the Titanic love story since they are always willing to save each other out of love. I also enjoyed reading Emilia’s narrative since she was the youngest and I could relate to her the most. Alfred is also an interesting character because he acts really tough but secretly he is a coward.

I have heard Salt to the Sea being described as “beautifully written and deeply felt” and “a rich, page turning story” which I would definitely agree with. I found it extremely difficult to put this book down and it deserves to be called a masterpiece, I would really love to see it adapted into a film. If you enjoy reading historical fiction or romance novels, then this book should definitely please you. Overall, I would definitely recommend reading Salt to the Sea because it has a beautiful storyline and has a very realistic tone. I loved reading this book and I completely understand why it’s on the list for the Carnegie medal.

Posted on: 21st May 2017 at 10:06 pm

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