If you like World War II fiction, these are two fantastic reads that I’ve gotten to lately.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys tells the story of the worst maritime disaster in history, the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. Despite what I’d felt to be my solid knowledge of World War II, I’d never heard of the Gustloff disaster, or perhaps had never quite absorbed it from my college notes. The cruise ship, meant to carry a capacity of 1,500 people, carried 10,500 refugees from Prussia to Germany, and was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine along the way, losing 9,500 lives in the icy waters of the Baltic Sea.
Salt to the Sea alternates between the points of four young adults, Emilia, the pregnant Polish girl, Joana, a Lithuanian “nurse”, Florian, the Prussian soldier, and Albert, the German sailor. Their stories become tragically and heart warmingly intertwined as they make their journey to the Gustloff, and on it. The book is a true page turner, and I finished it within one day.
The Nightingale is in an entire league of it’s own. Five stars without a doubt, it tells the story of two sisters who lead tragically different lives in Nazi occupied France. Vianne lives with her daughter in a small French town while her husband is on the front, and the reckless Isabelle, who has never lived in a home where she’s felt anyone truly wanted her, will do anything to be part of the resistance.
As a German soldier billets with Vianne and Isabelle becomes the Nightingale, leading downed Allied soldiers over the Pyrenees, the war teaches them between good, evil, love, indifference, and what it means to be brave. The Nightingale is gritty and terrifying, and exactly what makes a good World War II novel.
If you have an interest in World War II or love historical fiction and good characters, I definitely recommend giving these a read.