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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

BOOK review
Started on: 6.February.2016
Finished on: 16.February.2016

Title : Salt to the Sea
Author : Ruta Sepetys
Publisher : Philomel Books
Pages :  400 pages /  225 pages (e-book)
Year of Publication : 2016
Price : Rp 189,000 (

Rating: 5/5
"I moved from body to body, treating blisters, wounds, frostbite. But I had no treatment for what plagued people the most. Fear."
It was 1945, nearing the end of World War II. Four young people are hunted by different things in their lives and fate brought them together in the midst of tragedy. Joana Vilkas is a Lithuanian nurse who's haunted by guilt and is traveling with a group of people in search of hope. Then she met Florian Beck, a wounded German who came together with a Polish girl named Emilia. The two of them might bring danger to the group due to their identities but Joana insisted they stay together. They're going to help each other and reach the ship that will lead them to freedom.

"But nothing was clean. Everything was filthy. Especially my conscience."
Each one of them has a secret which will be unfold throughout their journey to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship which will soon be fully packed with thousands of people. Aboard the ship, they will meet Alfred Frick, a sailor who sees himself as an honorable soldier when the truth states otherwise. But with Alfred around, Florian managed to get a lot of help securing his real identity. Unfortunately, although they all had plans on what they would do once they get off the ship, not everyone had the privilege to see it through.
"How do you defend yourself against the prolonged, insufferable agony of knowing you will surrender to the sea?"
image source: here. edited by me.
"The sinking of the Gustloff is the largest maritime disaster, yet the world still knows nothing of it. I often wonder, will that ever change or will it remain just another secret swallowed by war?
One of the first reviews that I wrote on this blog was Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys and I absolutely love that book to bits. Since that day, I vowed to read anything that Ruta Sepetys writes. As it turns out, the main character of this book—Joanna Vilkas—is related to the main character in Between Shades of Gray, Lina Vilkas. Even though they're related, these two stories are set in different places and focuses on different historical events. In this book, the story highlights one of the greatest maritime disaster of all time, the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II in 1945—which is a lot worse than the Titanic tragedy that received all sorts of attention from all around the world. I've never heard about it before, so it was quite shocking when I found out this tragedy killed almost 10,000 people. Ruta Sepetys did an amazing job portraying this catastrophe through such a beautiful yet heartbreaking story.

In terms of plot / storyline, I'd have to say the author successfully managed to make me eager to know more about the characters. The book is written in multiple POVs of the four main characters: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred. All the chapters are considerably short, making the story a definite page-turner and the plot moves at a very fast pace. The author slowly peels the mystery of each characters and I keep on shouting (in my mind) "What?! What is it?! I need more!" at the end of each chapter. And when the secrets are finally revealed, I was genuinely shocked because I didn't expect it to be that way. I don't want to talk too much about the plot because I'm afraid I'll spoil things for those who haven't read the book. But I'll just say that I love the flow of the story, how intense everything is making me worry for the characters, the way the author depicts the horror of war with gruesome details, and especially the slow-burning romance that I adore so much! There's definitely no happy ending when it comes to war stories. It's definitely heartbreaking, but thankfully there's also something relieving at the end of this book :')
"I became good at pretending. I became so good that after a while the lines blurred between my truth and fiction. And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself."
"The knight was beautiful, handsome when he smiled.
He didn't want anyone to see it.
He didn't want to acknowledge it himself.
But for a brief moment, I saw him. The real man inside of him, not the one tortured by secrets and pain.
And he was beautiful."
Now let's talk about the best part of this book, the characters! No doubt, my favorite character has got to be Florian Beck, our mysterious guy who's full of charms ♥ He's actually the character that I'm most curious about from the very beginning because he's so secretive about his identity—he doesn't even dare mention his name to Joana at first. As the story goes and we get to know him better, he turns out to be very adorable—especially his feelings towards Joana that he didn't express all that much. And of course I also really admire Joana Vilkas, who's a very compassionate and kind person. Seeing this kind of character in a World War II story is always very heartwarming. It's like seeing a glimpse of humanity that still exists in the midst of cruelty and misery. I absolutely love the chemistry between these two, a lot of sweet moments that made me squeal with joy.

From the side characters, I really love the relationship between the Shoe Poet and the Wandering Boy. They started off as strangers, but towards the end of the story, their bond got so deep that one voluntarily made a sacrifice for the other :'((( I hope I'm not spoiling too much, but that scene made me so sad. I kept thinking about how happy they would be together when the war finally ends. Believe me, get ready for your heart to be broken into pieces if you're planning to read this book.

"What had human beings become? Did war make us evil or just activate an evil already lurking within us?"
Like I said earlier, Ruta Sepetys did a tremendous job at portraying the horror and misery of war—especially World War II in this case. She successfully made me fully invest in the characters emotionally. And through these characters, the author shows how people during those days are hunted by guilt, fate, shame, and fear. I'd have to applaud Ruta Sepetys for her exceptionally beautiful writing in this book. I've always loved the way she tells a story and how the characters she created can touch my heart. Definitely a must-read for fans of historical fiction or a fan of Ruta Sepetys :)) Can't wait to read more of her works in the future!
"Do you see, my dear? The proverbs are at play. 'I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.'"
"All the running, the hiding, the lies, the killing, for what? The endless circle of revenge: answering pain by inflicting pain. Why did I do it?"

For those of you who're interested in reading this book, you can watch the book trailer below

"We the survivors are not the true witnesses. The true witnesses, those in possession of the unspeakable truth, are the drowned, the dead, the disappeared."—Primo Levi
by.stefaniesugia♥ .


  1. I also looooove Ruta Sepetys'! Meski baru baca Between Shades of Gray... dan belum aku review. Aku bingung sih gimana ngereviewnya. x)

    Sepetys ini bukunya rata-rata tentang perjalanan hidup di tengah-tengah perang gitu ya, Stef.. jadi unik dan fresh, meski bikin patah hati just like you've said before :') Ah, tapi aku mah emang suka tipe buku yang gloomy begini (apalagi dibaca pas musim hujan). :"

    Hopefully I'll purchase and read this book soon! ^^


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