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.
I couldn’t wait to read this book because I love Between Shades of Grey. I love that Sepetys writes about historical events that are not well known and tells these stories through teenagers. You see the horrific events of popular wars brought to life right before your very eyes. There is something extremely powerful about this idea and the way she writes it and brings such life to the event and the characters living through it, you feel as if you are standing there with them in these terrible places.
In this novel we get an easy read in my opinion by the fact that the story is told in four POVs with each POV only lasting a few pages each. This keeps the story moving and you wanting to find out what each person can bring to the table and what have they suffered through on their path to survival.
We truly see all sides of the war when we see the story through a current solider and his quest to be just like Hitler and to hail the idea of a master race, a young girl who has already lost everything but might have one thing left to lose, a older teenage boy who holds a great secret that might destroy him or save his life, and a girl in her 20s who was a nurse and only wants to help everyone in her path to survival. I thought it was great to see people from all different regions that the Soviet Union and Germany were fighting over and through. It brought together each culture and put them all on the run for their lives. They were trying to run to a ship to escape on the sea to a safer place. I enjoyed the fact that we saw people running and also a boy who believed so fiercely in Hitler’s plans. It adds a real world element to understand the German mentality during this time, at least from the people who followed Hitler and believed in a master race.
As I stated earlier the writing is gorgeous. There is no one else who I could imagine writing these stories because you can tell how much research and heart goes into these stories. I enjoyed the journey of every soul in this book and I loved seeing a different side of history.
My only downside of this story would be the ending. I felt the ending was rushed. I spent hundreds of pages with these characters and the ending just seemed to wrap up too quickly for my taste. There was a bit more that could have been said in my eyes but I also see why she decided to end the story where she did. I can’t say enough good things about this author and her books. So maybe this sounds like a rant about why you should read not only this book in particular but why you should read her other books as well. I highly recommend this book because it was powerful and hard hitting. I enjoyed Between Shades of Grey just a little more but this was still something I was dying to get my hands on this year and I’m glad I had a chance to read and to learn.