Review: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


Song For This Book: Lilli Marlene by Vera Lynn
Why? This song is referenced quite a few times in the book, and it’s a generally great song.


Having now read this book, I am not at all surprised at the awards that it has received. Sepetys has put together quite the amazing story, created some incredible character, and obviously done some great research into the historical setting. And, what makes this even better, it’s not the hard, heavy read that World War 2 fiction generally is. It’s actually an easy, quick read, but also maintains the seriousness that these sorts of topics deserve.

This story is told by four separate characters, all from their own walks to life and with their own goals. These people all happen to find each other by chance, but their actions continue to affect each other as the book progresses. That’s a pretty tall order for any author, maintaining all those perspectives and storylines, but Sepetys does an absolutely beautiful job of it.

The Good Points of Salt to the Sea:

The cover. It’s so gorgeous. And I know that the content is more important, but the cover is beautiful.

The four main characters were fantastic. I’ll admit that I hated Alfred, but the fact that I knew enough about him to know that I hated him was something in itself. They were all very well developed, very distinct, and you easily fall into step with all of them.

I didn’t know too much about this particular event prior to this book. I’d vaguely heard about it, but didn’t know much more than a boat sank and a lot of people died. But Sepetys made it easy to understand what was going on and what had happened. The research put into this book was obviously extensive, and it was presented very well.

Sepetys has a way with words that make a difficult topic such as this so easy to read. The writing is simple, but elegant, and doesn’t get in the way of the story or make the writing more important than the events. I want to read more by Sepetys just because her writing is so perfect for these historical stories.

The Downsides of Salt To The Sea:

This book does drag a bit early on. There’s lot of important information coming about, and I can see why it was done the way it was, but the pacing did lack a bit. On the other hand, a faster pace might have meant more bad things happening to characters I liked, so it’s a balance.

This book jumps around so much. Chapters, at most, are four pages long, and then someone else comes in and takes over. Getting the different perspectives on events has they happened was great, but I would have preferred longer chapters so that I could get settled with an event and a character. It would have made it easier to connect with the characters.

Maybe because of the short chapters, but I didn’t get emotionally invested in the characters as much as I thought I would. It was sad when something bad happened, but I didn’t care much beyond acknowledging that it was sad.

All in all, this book is wonderful. It’s not a book that I found easy to emotionally connect with, but it’s a gorgeous story about something that isn’t focused on very often. If you love World War 2 stories, well developed characters, honest stories, or well researched historical stories, you should definitely check this one out.

Find Salt To The Sea on Book Depository

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2 thoughts on “Review: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

  1. I had the same problem with the shorter chapters (I can’t believe I just said that!) I prefer short chapters in a book. But when it comes to changes in POV with a bunch of different characters, I feel that we need more time (especially in the beginning) to grasp who they are. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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