The Casualties of War: My Thoughts On Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

25614492Published: February 2nd, 2016

by: Philomel Books

Genres: YA, Historical-Fiction, World War II

Format: ebook 

Source: Library 

My Rating: 4.5 Stars 4.5 STARS (1)


Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


My Thoughts

Salt to the Sea is a beautifully written story about one of the worst times in history. Four teens, one goal – freedom. And, as you may know (or not), American History books are filled with holes and untruths. I like delving deeper into history, to get a better sense of things. Sepetys really did a great job of researching World War II history. She took another approach, however, and this time it’s all about Lithuanian refugees. No matter the fictional accounts, this is a gripping historical tale that will leave you wanting more.

When I first started this, I was put off by the short chapters and four POVs. Then, as I started to get deeper, I felt better about how the author wrote this. Words and phrases all blended into one another, which made it a very pleasant read. I found all stories hard to read, simply because of the nature of their pasts. But then, it’s good to read such accounts, to shed some light on what many may not know of – me included. The Wilhelm Gustloff needs to be remembered. Such a tragic moment in history that has been looked over. This story will make you tear up.

Of all the characters, I think I liked Emilia more. There was just something about her situation that grasped me more than the others. Don’t get me wrong, Florian, Joana,  Alfred, and all the refugees had their own heartbreaking and mysterious stories. Emilia stood out to me. And if you’ve read this then you can pretty much guess why. These people trekked for miles and sought shelter whenever and wherever they could, just to get to the Gustloff. How it ends……well, I wasn’t as surprised? as I’d thought going into this. It may make you cry, but I found this to be a great – albeit, sad – fictional account to a part of World War II history that doesn’t get told often. 

I highly recommend reading this book. The characters are very much fictional, but the history isn’t. If you enjoy World War II stories, or any war stories, this one will surely become a favorite.


36 thoughts on “The Casualties of War: My Thoughts On Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

  1. Sweet, we gave it the same rating 🙂
    This was such a beautiful and well written book. I was sad but it was done without it feeling like the author was trying to force me to be sad…if that makes sense…


  2. This was my first of hers, and I wasn’t put off from the short multiple perspectives, in the beginning I was a little bored, but that’s what kept me reading, and I basically read the whole thing in three hours. Emilia did stand out (also Florian for me) but her story was so heartbreaking, especially with how it ended. 😦 The only one that did get to me. And same, these may be fictional accounts, but it’s a way of showing history, and I’m so glad it did.


  3. You know what. I tried to listen to this right after my Dad died, and I listened to almost 3/4th of before realizing I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I think it was just background noise to my own thoughts. I love your review and will totally relisten!


  4. oh this is like candy for a history buff like myself. I haven’t read too many books around this time period and I have been wanting to delve deeper. And the cover is pretty awesome too.


  5. I can’t wait to read this book. I very nearly almost bought it but switched it out for another… and now I am on a book buying ban 😦 But I have it on my written TBR and I just know it is going to mean a lot to me because it sounds beautifully written and it as if it really does delve in down deep. And I know it relates to a lot of present day issues as well. I’m glad this one was able to blow you away so much.


  6. Yes! This book was just so powerful. Emotional but eye opening. Like you said, there’s a LOT of history that we just don’t learn about. I was glad to see a piece of it I never was aware of. Florian was my favorite. Wonderful review!


  7. While my focus is more on sff, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres as well and this book was one that has jumped out at me a lot in the past couple months. I’ve never read the author but I keep hearing how wonderful this is. Your review just strengthened my belief that I should pick this one up, thank you!


    • It’s so beautifully written, and the history just makes you want to know more. There were so many things going on during WWII that not many know about, so I hope you learn some things like me and Google it. Google is my bff when I read any kind of history.


  8. I really want to read this one soon. She came to my local library and showed slide of all of her research in writing this book and I was blown away. How is it that I have never heard about this? I am so happy to see such a great review from you, Lekeisha. It really sounds like a powerful story.


  9. I love that this author is shedding light on a historical event that is often overlooked in mainstream media. I bought a copy of this book the other day and I’m looking forward to reading it although I feel like I’m going to have to emotionally prepare myself for it. I don’t usually enjoy multiple POVs, but the writing, character and story itself sound too stunning to pass up on this book because of that.
    Beautiful review!


  10. I hate war stories and narratives personally – I think they’re over done – but I love this and Between Shades of Grey (her other book). I’ve lent it to a few people – my European History teacher among them – and they all loved it.


  11. I absolutely adored this book. I can easily say it’s my favourite book I’ve read so far in 2016, such beautiful story-telling!! Great review xx


  12. Whew! It sounds amazing. I’ve not read one of her books before, but the backdrop of this one draws me in. Nice review, Lekeisha!


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