Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys | SLJ Audio Review

redstarSEPETYS, RUTA. Salt to the Sea. 7 CDs. 8:50 hrs. Listening Library. 2016. $45. ISBN 9780147525437. digital download. salt to the sea

Gr 9 Up 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. 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. VERDICT Libraries with even the most limited audio budgets will want to invest. [“Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys’s exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping”: SLJ 12/15 starred review of the Philomel book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2016 issue.

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