*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sitting down to read Salt to the Sea, I felt myself beginning to worry. I knew the book was being very well received, but my relationship with this particular period in history has always been rocky. After so many years studying the Second World War at school, what could it possibly offer me that I didn’t already know? Now I know the answer: a well-researched and much more moving account of a harrowing maritime disaster than I ever thought possible.
Each of the four perspectives we get to experience in this book offer something unique to the narrative, as well as each having a very distinctive voice. It didn’t take me long to distinguish between them and there was a point when I no longer needed the character’s name at the top of each chapter to help. Multiple POVs are always something I enjoy in a novel when they are done well, just as they were here. I fell in love with each and every one of the characters, even those like Ingrid and the Shoe Poet who didn’t have a point of view chapter of their own. And it would be a crime not to mention the story arcs, which provided characters like Emilia and Florian with so much character development over the course of the novel. Their friendship was one of my favourite parts of the book.
Most of the plot comes from the secrets each point of view character is keeping, providing an air of mystery and intrigue that kept me guessing until the big reveals. The pacing was great, with things moving at a speed fast enough to maintain a reader’s interest but not to leave you lost. This was definitely facilitated by the short, action packed chapters. None of the dialogue felt forced at all, so the romantic relationship that grew between two of the characters came across as believable rather than engineered or convenient. The ending we got was a bittersweet one, but I strongly believe it was perfect for not only the tone of the story but also in keeping with the tragic backdrop of the sinking. As much as I wanted a happily ever after for (almost) everyone I would have hated it if everything had been perfect. I freely admit that I had tears in my eyes towards the end.
I don’t think I can come up with anything worth mentioning here. I seriously can’t. Obviously, if historical fiction isn’t your thing then you might not like it as much as I have; likewise if you prefer your books with more fantastical elements then you won’t find that here. Yet if historical fiction is something you’re interested in exploring, this is as good a place to start as any.
Salt to the Sea is, unquestionably, a five star read. This novel has motivated me to really delve into the world of historical fiction. I thought that the book did a wonderful job of portraying the hardships of life at the time for ordinary people and the struggles of those living in a country at war. So often, the things we learn about the Second World War feel as though they happened on such a grand scale that it’s easy to forget the personal tragedies, but this story offered a much more individual look at these awful and far reaching historical events. Ruta Sepetys’ novels receive a lot of praise and I’m definitely going to be adding my voice to the chorus.