I knew this book would be depressing. I knew it where it was heading. So I delayed reading it two years.
And it was a such a damned good book. Depressing as hell but so good.
I can’t remember where exactly I saw the recommendation, but Maggie Stiefvater, one of my favorite authors, was recommending it on the social media, so I picked it up. But it had no happy elements and not magical ones either, so it’s not a book I pick up on my own normally.
It follows refugees fleeing East Prussia as the Soviet army is closing in right before Germany loses the war.
Bad things are happening.
But it was so wonderfully written. You have four very different point of view characters with very brief, James Patterson-sized chapters, so you clip through the story pretty well.
One character is a nurse. One is a Polish girl. One is an art restorer. One is a German soldier. And they all have baggage.
I’ll leave with this: It’s very much worth reading. I wish the cover on the author’s website was used instead of the one I have because I think it’s a better representation of the story and doesn’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen.
SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD (but the book description gives this away too)
It’s depressing. You know it’s going to be depressing. But it’s also well worth the read. It also provides a fictional accounting of the very real sea wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff, which killed more than 9,000 people, dwarfing more famous shipwrecks, and it’s not the only ship that went down at that time.
Particularly in America, we focus on the Western European and Pacific stories from World War II, but Eastern Europe has a lot of its own stories to tell, so it was interesting to get to see that perspective.
This is not a cheery book. It has its moments, but it’s mostly depressing in a bunch of little ways that make it a very good read. I hope you’ll give it a chance (and it doesn’t take long to read. It’s going to take me as long to watch Avengers: Endgame as it took to read this book.