Salt to the Sea is an emotionally charged WWII epic drama about a group of people who were fleeing Germany and came together out of chance. Told from four viewpoints, three from this group of travelers, and one from a German soldier, we see the different sides to this war. Joana, a young woman with some medical training, is Lithuanian, but has been given papers because she is half German, accepts a leader role in this group. A role that is almost thrust upon her because of her medical knowledge. That knowledge makes her important in the middle of a war. Florian, a young Prussian man, dressed in civilian clothing, meets Emilia in the woods as she is fighting off the advances of a Russian soldier. He kills that soldier and gains Emilia’s hero worship. Even though he’d rather be traveling alone, Emilia, a Polish refugee who can’t speak German, reminds him of his sister and begrudgingly he allows her to travel with him. They join up with Joana’s group and remain with them on the journey to the sea, where they hope to get on one of the ships that will take them to safety.
In reading the synopsis I find out that the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the biggest disaster in naval history, bigger than the Titanic and the Lusitania combined, so I have an inkling that this may not end well. However, as I listened to the audiobook, I got wrapped up in each of these characters histories, and chose to forget that they all might not have a very happy ending. This audio book was awesome. Each narrator had a separate reader, and the emotions they imbued into their voices to characterize their part was so well done. I could feel the responsibility that Joana felt, feel the anger Florian had towards Hitler and the love he began to feel towards Joana, hear Emilia’s youthful hero worship of Florian and also feel her hidden despair. The hardest part to listen to, and I’m sure read, was the German soldier, who as the book went on, shone with his adulation of Hitler and hatred of all things not German, blonde and beautiful.
This book deserved all of the accolades and great reviews. At times the subject matter was horrifying and difficult to read, but there were a lot of great stories about everyday heroes too, and for me that made it a really well balanced book. If you like historical fiction, this is definitely worth your time. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❣️
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