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.
This story is based on a maritime tragedy of epic proportions. While reading, I felt in awe of the fact that I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff. I’m not sure how that’s possible. What initially drew me to this book was the cover; that has to be one of the most ‘indicative of the story’ covers I’ve come across! It’s haunting , yet intriguing at the same time because I wanted to find out what led to that picture.
I really don’t want to give anything away plot wise; you already know there’s a maritime tragedy involved so the beauty of this story is finding out what led to it and who are the characters involved that we are inevitably going to get attached to, worry about, and hope for their survival.
The story is told from four alternating viewpoints with very short chapters which led me to quickly keep turning the pages . There’s Joana, a fleeing Lithuanian who’s guilt over her past threatens to engulf her; Florian, a handsome wounded Prussian who’s carrying many secrets; Emilia, a young Polish girl who’s seen and experienced great tragedy but sadly feels the heaviness of shame and grief; and Alfred, a very odd German sailor who seems to live in an alternate reality most of the time. Somehow, their paths will collide and each will have to decide how much of their secrets they are willing to expose to the others. Along the way, we meet several other characters who will pull at your heartstrings…the wandering boy, the shoe poet and Eva were my favorite. I think the author’s writing shines with her ability to bring all these characters to life with their unique quirks, knowledge and personalities. They became real people who’s plights I felt and worried about; there was an underlying tension and dread I experienced while reading as I wondered if everyone I had grown to care about would live and if not who would die? That’s suspenseful reading don’t you think?
If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Book Thief and/or All the Light We Cannot See as I have, I think you’ll also enjoy this story. Not only did I find this to be a riveting, fast-paced page turner, it taught me about a little known tragedy in our history.
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and read my posts these last couple months, I so appreciate it and as this is my last post until after Christmas, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays to you! I’ll be back next week with my first Blog Tour for Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions as well as my top 10 (or so) reads of 2016!!