08 Apr / Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys [in School Library Journal]
While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known 1945 sinking by Soviet torpedoes of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers – the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 – and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.
Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.
Small hiccups aside – most obviously that characters’ voices change from one narrator to another, e.g., Florian as voiced in Emilia’s chapters doesn’t sound like Florian in his own chapters – Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, and Michael Crouch perform mesmerizing narration worthy of Sepetys’s spectacular novel. Libraries with even the most limited audio budgets will want to invest.
Readers: Young Adult