Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Take a Shelfie: Salt to the Sea

This is one of my favorite books!  I could not put it down!

This books fictionalizes a real event most of us have never heard of, the greatest maritime disaster in history.  It was not the Titanic.  It was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I.

Please note:  I would exercise a little caution with who should read it.  There is an implied rape in the book, and that might be too much for some of your students.  Although there are no details, you read that one of the characters was dragged off by Russian soldiers, screaming.  You already know she's pregnant.

The Premise of the Book

There are four main characters in this book, each of whom carries a hidden guilt:

1)  Florian, a young Prussian man whose skill is art restoration.  He uses it with a noted professor only to learn that what he thought was noble, was just creating a way for the Germans to steal art from other countries.  So he decides to get even.

2)  Joana, a young Lithuanian woman who became a nursing assistant, a skill that comes in handy many times; she lives with the guilt that, in writing a note years ago, she might have killed her cousin.

3)  Emelia, Fifteen years old, from Poland, frightened, pregnant.  She tells a story.  But it's not really hers.  She's too ashamed to tell the real one.

4)  Alfred, a young German sailor, filled with a heightened impression of what he's doing to help Germany win the war; he writes letters in his head to a girl he admires.

This is a powerfully told story of four people joining together, with others, in desperation to survive the horrors of World War II with Germany pushing from the west and Russia pushing from the east.  There are so many beautiful moments in this book that capture the essence of being human, even in the midst of very difficult circumstances. 

The story flows from character to character, and each moves the story ahead a little bit.  You meet so many people: the "shoe poet" who spouts wisdom and takes Klaus, the little boy, under his care; Eva, who says whatever's on her mind and then apologizes later; Ingrid, who is blind, but can "see" better than most people.  I think this would be a powerful book for middle and high school readers.  Give it a try!

What book are you reading right now that your students will enjoy?

If you like, you can purchase the book through the link below.  You don't pay any extra for it but I earn a few pennies as an amazon affiliate.

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