Salt to the Sea is a historical fiction placed in East Prussia during World War II. The story is told by 4 young people who each tell their own story about last year of the most devastating war in history.

We read about Joanna, a young Lithuanian nurse who took care of wounded and ill people found in the woods while running away from her own tragic secret.

Emilia, 15 years old Polish girl ready to be killed by German man when is suddenly saved by a knight and forced to confess to him with her unexpected health condition.

Florian, a handsome Prussian soldier with important mission who saved and then was saved by Emilia and who let her join him on his journey.

And last, Alfred, a proud German boy who works as a help on the ship and has a deep hatred for everything that goes against Hitler. His point of view is mainly told by his imaginary letters to the girl he’s in love with.

Each of the characters has a complex personality and secrets in their past and those are being revealed as the story goes on.

These 4 people meet on a ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff, their last hope for leaving unbearable condition in East Prussia.

Along with them we read about Joanna’s friends, such as a shoe maker who’s known by the others as shoe poet, little wandering boy Klaus and way too honest woman Eva.

Many parts of book are based on true historical facts so don’t Google the name of ship or some people from book if you want to avoid spoilers.

Ruta Sepetys writes in such an elegant poetic way, every line, every description, dialogue and analogy is carefully considered. It made me excited for new page but I also wished to memorize her beautiful writing so I stayed on some pages for a little bit longer.

The book was aimed for a young adults so the style is little bit simpler than what I am used to but it is in no way easy book to read and I am sure that adults can enjoy it.

I wished she would go deeper in some characters’ backstories but I understand why she hasn’t. I like how the entire book is themed around the first line “Guilt is a hunter” and how it portrays that often people blame themselves for something that was not their fault. The guilt is making them believe they were responsible for bad things that happened to them, even though they were victims in a first place.

5/5 but consider that it is a book aimed for young adults so if you are used to little harder literature it might come off as a bit simple writing.




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Natalia 22 Slovak. Read about my passion for fashion, travel and personal experiences.


  1. I read this book during my student teaching internship because my students would be reading it and, man, I did not like this book–which is crazy because my students absolutely loved it and felt the same way that you do about it! To me, I felt like there was just so much build up to getting on the ship and the accident that after the accident, Sepetys just rushed to finish the novel and left a lot of things open-ended. I remember having a lot of questions (can’t remember what they were specifically) after finishing that that were just left unanswered. I wish I could say I loved it because the story line is cool and interesting, and on top of that, so many people love it, but I can’t. I’m glad you enjoyed it, though!

    Liked by 2 people

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