Published: February 2, 2016
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, the Wilhelm 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, 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.
Although this book is technically a young adult book ( and I highly recommend it to ALL young adults because they must know what can happen when the person in charge of a country has no respect for human life – they see things like this on television and movies but most of them don’t care enough to learn the truth behind he images) I, as an adult, found it haunting, captivating, heart wrenching and hard to believe.
I don’t want to give too much away, but all of the main characters in the book do not survive and it broke my heart . I had the audio version and had to turn it off in some places while driving because of the tears forming in my eyes.
It is the best historical fiction that I had read or listened to in a very long time and although the characters were not real people, I’m fairly certain that out of the ten thousand people crammed onto the evacuation ship there were stories just like the ones in this book.
The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff is the single greatest maritime disaster in history yet, to many, the story remains unknown .It is a poignant, heart-breaking and should be on everyone’s TBR list.
For more information on Operation Hannibal and this disaster check out the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Wilhelm_Gustloff
I have not read Between Shades of Gray, by this author, mentioned in the blurb above, but I intend to very soon.
Five stars *****