Fatema, Plashet School
Salt to the Sea
Oh. My. Goodness.
Just when I thought the Carnegie books this year couldn't get any better, it most certainly did. Whole heartedly, I did not regret reading this book, at all. I think I should stop judging the book by it's cover, and the genre. Honestly.
First of all, I will like to clarify that historical fiction WAS one of my my least favourite genres of all time (*ugly cries again in regret*). Because... I didn't think that it was possible to make an engaging story from such a boring context (I choose it for my GCSEs, oh the irony...)
But in the end, Emilia was right, shame is a hunter. Words cannot begin to express how ashamed I feel for not approaching this book with the same amount of respect I have for other genres. Don't worry though, I think my judgement would begin to improve from this day on.
You must be thinking, why am I fretting over this book with such over exaggerated reactions? I'll explain.
The story, like The Smell of Other People's Houses, is told through the perspectives of four predominant characters: Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred. In short, Joana is a 21 year old Lithuanian nurse. Florian, who's 19, is an East Prussian (now part of Poland) boy who originally was a restoration artist. Emilia, 15, is a Polish girl. And Alfred (a 'sailor')... It's a good thing the author didn't mention much of him, I loathed him significantly.
The story took place during WWII in 1939, where the ultimate goal for the three characters, Joana, Florian and Emilia, was to escape the harsh conditions of Germany and the Russians. Eventually, after a long and painful journey to reach the harbour, they successfully board themselves onto the Wilhelm Gustloff. Unfortunately, That's when hell breaks loose. Literal. Hell.
The characters, I think, were some of the best ones I've come across in the history of all the books I've read. They were extremely convincing, plus their thoughts and ideas were relevant to their backgrounds and personal life. I remember Miss Clifford telling us that you can spot a well written book if you feel strong emotions towards the characters (*cough cough, Alfred*). Their interactions with each other are EXACLY, how a group of different blooded people would communicate with each other in such a situation. The plot was very well constructed, as I had no difficulty what so ever following it. I was fascinated by the fact that it was so simple, yet so touching. The book was beautifully written, as teenagers nowadays would call it, was 'on point' (I'm more of an old-school type of person).
BUT THE CONTEXT.
One thing I've always admired about historical fiction, even before stumbling across this book, was because it was based on concrete, real life events that actually happened. This book was SOO good, that I was bothered enough to read the afterword. I did not regret it.
The Wilhelm Gustloff, is in fact, THE deadliest disaster in marine time history. It killed over 9,000 people; the majority of them being war refugees and children. The most well known disaster, the Titanic, only killed about a 1,000 (it is just as important, before you go protesting). It makes me wonder why I've never heard about it. Imagine all those innocent people who practically fought, just to get on that ship, ending up plummeting to their death. They didn't even get to say goodbye to their loved ones properly, due to the pressure of war. Loads of young children didn't even get the chance to even pursue a family or a career, forget having a dream one. And here I am, complaining about how ugly the food in the school canteen looks.
This book makes you realise how privileged we really are to not be caught in the hands of war. It's a devastating thing; most certainly should not be underestimated.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read this book! I beg you from the bottom of my heart, you would not regret reading this. AT ALL.
In fact, it's been my favourite Carnegie book so far.
Posted on: 6th June 2017 at 08:55 pm