My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won’t find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could’ve been better or what worked or didn’t work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it’s here I probably think it won’t injure your brain if you read it.
As World War II draws to an end and the Russians sweep into Germany, the people flee ahead of them en masse. Hundreds of thousands of elderly, women, children and injured German soldiers are to be evacuated during what was called Operation Hannibal. But solidarity is hard to find, and even among victims there is a pecking order.
From a young military officer torn between his duty to his country and his duty as an artist to save priceless art from the coming devastation, to a German sailor suffering from delusions of grandeur, to a Polish girl, pregnant with a Russian child that was forced upon her, to the strong nurse whose blood lineage was just good enough to assure her passage on a ship, all the characters have reason to trust – and to fear – one another.
Their paths converge en route to the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship whose sinking killed nearly 10,000 people – the largest sea disaster in history – yet somehow remains mostly unknown.