East Prussia, winter 1945. In a region chaotic with displaced persons, three young people's lives intersect as they flee to the coast ahead of the advancing Red Army. Laden with the burdens of what they have had to endure to survive the war, each is desperate to reach the ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, that will evacuate them to safety. But for Joanna, a Lithuanian nurse, Emilia, a pregnant Polish teenager and Florian, a Prussian art restorer, that prospect is tempered with an understanding that the danger is not yet over and deliverance is uncertain.
Distinguished by its plausible characters and its meticulous research, this is a gripping page-turner with all-age appeal that was inspired by the little-known but worst disaster in maritime history.
Fascinating story - and most of us knew nothing about this history. Good discussion. I made 'Rose Petal Jam' for our evening!
Most really enjoyed the book after expecting the opposite. A well researched, and crafted account of one of the worst tragedies in WW2. The characters were diverse and believable and several were endearing to the reader.
The story was captivating even though it contained horrifying atrocities. Short chapters based on one character at a time was very effective. Author's notes were very sobering and you can appreciate all the research. Alfred's 'letters' were an effective way of disclosing his back story. Notes were helpful...
Everyone loved this book, although most found it took a while to establish the characters - initially confused as to who was who. We agreed some images described were hard to forget, and it was great to learn of WWII history we knew nothing about.
A very unusual read. Some liked the style of writing and others found it difficult to read.
We all enjoyed the book - couldn't put it down towards the end. Clever how the author combined the stories from people of so many countries.
Well liked, easy to read. Interesting subject - would appeal to younger readers due to structure. Recommended for other groups.
An amazing read. The author put in a huge amount of research to make it so realistic.
Everyone enjoyed book, some found the format of short character chapters a bit off putting at the start. The four main characters drew us in, as did the support cast. Alfred particularly stood out as a character and was the most discussed of all. All felt the story moving and suspenseful but everyone felt they would have liked more character and historical depth. All shocked that we knew so little of this history and nothing of the maritime disaster at the end of the book.
Despite the horrific circumstances of the story, we found the book readable. It was an easy read - a slice of history that few of us were aware of. Well researched, authentic, and thought-provoking.
Great discussion as enjoyed by all. Very sad and topical. Well-written.
Gruelling and challenging, but well worth the perseverance.
While some of us initially struggled with balancing the various threads (not being sure exactly who "he" or "she" referred to in each main character's story), we all thoroughly loved the book - and were astounded (& maybe a bit ashamed) that we didn't know anything about the facts of this sinking and senseless loss of life before reading the book.
Really enjoyed the writing style, once we'd established who each character was. Fascinating account of little known WWII maritime history.
This was loved by most - but not all. The hidden personal stories of the characters were so slowly and skilfully revealed to each other and the reader. The plundering of Art treasures was a different focus for a war book. Once again, we all realised that we knew nothing about this particular disaster from the war.
Everyone loved this book, it was beautifully written. A compelling page-turner with well-developed characters.
Superb book. We didn't think this was young adult fiction. We liked the short paragraphs. Page turner.
Some of our group enjoyed the book and had to keep reading to sort out the characters and see how it would end. Others (our group being mainly around that dreaded 70 years of age) found the book tough going! Very topical while the world is in the grip of Covid-19. Rating reflects the two extremes in views...
This book provided stimulating discussion about an almost unknown naval tragedy. Extremely easy to read. It is of course 'youth fiction', but well drawn characters gave us an insight to the horrors of war and its effect on civilians. We rated it highly.
Our group was stunned to learn about the civilian tragedy from the war. Even the one member who does not like war stories, read the whole book and found herself engrossed in the story.
Interesting, a story unknown by us (historically) and a nice way of writing it. Loved the "shoe poet" character.
We all loved this book as it brought to life as disaster we knew nothing about. Well-written and an interesting format. Gripping and a page turner.
We all loved this book.
The group thought that the content was interesting and an event that we had never heard of before, but the characterisation was poor.
We had a great discussion about this book and it led on to issues of climate change and how that will impact on human behaviour. This led on to a discussion about what we can do in our own environment.
We enjoyed reading this book - although a sad topic, the fast paced short chapters made it an easy read. Very well researched.
A well crafted story of an incident that none of the group had previously heard of. Well worth a read.
We all loved this book. Not your usual 'war novel'. We enjoyed the style of writing with the short choppy chapters. It was a fascinating/traumatic period of history none of us knew about.
Beautifully written and easy to read. Some took a while to get into it but once they did, they couldn't put it down. The author dealt with the harsh reality of children and youth caught up in the tragedy of war really well.
We all enjoyed the book.