“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.” -Goodreads
This book follows four different narrators: A Lithuanian girl named Joana who was once a surgeon’s assistant, a Prussian boy named Florian who was once an apprentice to an art restorer for the Nazi Party, a pregnant 15-year-old Polish girl named Emilia and a German sailor named Alfred. Over the course of the novel, we see each of these characters tell the story of their journey escaping to refuge after the battle between the Russians and the Germans during WWII. Each character lost so much along the way and when their paths cross they work together for survival. Each chapter is only a couple or a few pages long and is told by a different narrator. We see how the war affected them through each characters eyes and also all that they lost along the way. We see each narrators past, present and their hope for a better future after the war.
This book was very fast paced and I found myself turning page, after page, after page. I thought I had only been reading it for an hour at times, but then an hour turned into five hours. This book was so good it only took me two days to read it! While this book is tragic and heart wrenching and is based on heartbreaking true events, it also had a romance you want to fight for, friendship and so much mystery. While each character/narrator gives us a glimpse of their past and how World War II destroyed it, there is also a lot of mystery about their pasts as well. Each character is keeping a secret and some of these secrets could get them killed. This book is a page turner, because you don't find out most of these secrets until the end of the novel!
This book is so different from any other historical fiction young adult novel, about WWII that I have ever read.
It focuses on one of the biggest tragedies in maritime history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, which occurred during World War II, but a lot of people don’t know about it. You always hear about the Titanic or Lusitania sinking, but this book focused on the most tragic one that is unfortunately the least known, especially by Americans. I liked reading a historical fiction book about an event in World War II that isn't as well known. Most World War II historical fiction books are focused on the holocaust, so this book is a dime in the dozen.
This book was very eye opening and I learned many things I didn’t know about World War II. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a different perspective about World War II and that wants a heart wrenching story about, survival, love, redemption, and hope after the war.