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What I’m Reading: Sarah’s Key

Posted on the 10 January 2012 by Karaevs @KaraEvs

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Sarah’s Key

Synopsis, from
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. 

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

I had heard about Sarah’s Key a while ago but never thought it would really interest me. A self-confessed chick-lit freak, the historical nature of the book made me quite hesitant to pick it up! But, after Amber and Amber (Amber²? *snort*) had nothing but good things to say about it when I asked about it on Twitter, I figured, why not?! Bookstore gift card in tow, I picked it up and started reading it a couple days later.

My verdict? LOVED it!!

The author, Tatiana De Rosnay, tells the story of a young girl, Sarah, during the French Round-Up (Vel d’Hiv’) of all the Jewish occupants of Paris in 1942. Sarah, along with her mom and dad, were transported to essentially a “holding tank” before they were shipped off via train to yet another holding queue, where they would eventually be separated and then executed. Sarah’s little brother, however, hid in a secret hiding area of their home after Sarah told him that she’d be back to rescue him. Sarah’s chapters in the book tell how she escaped the round up and made her way back to Paris to try and save her brother.

De Rosnay alternates Sarah’s chapters with those of Julia, an American journalist who has been living and working in Paris for (I believe) 16 years. She is assigned to write a story for the anniversary of the round-up and doing so, she discovers a family secret that seems to both intrigue and shock her all at the same time. On top of her research, Julia also struggles in her marriage to her French husband.

Now, usually I like reading one character’s chapters over the other, but both sides of the story were so compelling that I loved them both equally. The historical nature of the book actually made it more gripping because Vel’ di’Hiv was an actual event, even though Sarah’s story is fictional. I personally didn’t know of France’s role in the execution of Jewish occupants of Europe, so I was quite shocked that it had happened. (Sadly, it’s amazing that 70 years after WWII, we still can’t all seem to get along …)

My heart broke for Sarah while reading the book and I cheered for Julia as she searched for everything she was looking for, both in work and in life. I don’t think there was anything that I didn’t like about it, other than I wish I could have read more about Sarah’s story.

I could go on and on about the book, but I don’t want to give it all away! I will just say that I highly recommend you pick up this book if/when you can and give it a read! I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Have you read Sarah’s Key? What did you think of it?


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