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23 December 2015

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a heartbreaking story of refugees at the end of World War II.

In the Winter of 1945, with the Russian army marching into Poland and Prussia, Germany set up Operation Hannibal - the largest sea evacuation in history. Using dozens of ships, the plan was to move soldiers, civilians, and wounded across the Baltic into Germany and away from the fighting.

Joana is a Lihuanian nurse. She is traveling with a rag tag group of people fleeing toward the ports. She is with a shoe maker, a wandering young boy, a pessimistic large woman and a blind girl.  They have been making their way to the sea but trying to avoid the main roads.

Florian is on a secret mission. He wants no attachment but cannot help himself when he sees a Russian soldier attack a young woman. After he kills the soldier, Emilia thinks of him as the knight and keeps following them.

Emilia and Florian meet up with Joana and her group. After some grumbling, including the fact that Emilia is Polish, they travel together.

Alfred is in the German Navy. He is newly a member of the Nazi party as health concerns kept him out of the Hitler Youth. But now he is ready to help the Fuhrer in the evacuation plan. He will be assigned to a ship soon.

Told through the four viewpoints, Sepetys tells the story of refugees and the story of the ship the Wilhelm Gustloff - the worst tragedy ever at sea, much worse that the Titanic or Lusitania. The Wilhelm Gusloff disaster killed over 9,000 people. Sepetys tells of this little know incident with the stories of four people on board and she does it brilliantly. Salt to the Sea is an amazing book.

When is comes out on February 2, 2015 buy a copy.

Sepetys, Ruta. (2016). Salt to the Sea. New York: Philomel.

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