World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, theWilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours. (x)
I’m kind of a sucker for World War II novels, so naturally I had to check this out. But reading this left me feeling more frustrated than anything.
The main thing that frustrated me was that the chapters were too short. This book had so much potential, especially given the fact that Sepetys was writing about a little known tragedy that took place during the war. There was not enough description of the setting and not enough back story of the characters to make the story really come alive for me.
I was very much confused by the character Alfred and the sociopathic tendencies he displayed. He felt like one of those boys that go on shooting rampages at schools and he just seemed out of place in a historical fiction novel.
I did, however, tear up at places, especially when Klaus got attached to the Shoe Poet as his grandfather. I got really attached to Emilia and wanted to protect her from everything. When she talked about the storks in her hometown Lwow (known as Lviv today), I was reminded of when I was in Ukraine. I also loved the connection Joana had to Lina in Between Shades of Gray and that Joana and Florian ended up raising Klaus and Halinka.
Overall, I enjoyed the characters, but the shortness of the chapters left the whole narrative very much lacking.