April 11, 2011
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
2007 St. Martin’s Griffin
Finished on 3/24/11
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.
Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.
Over the years, I’ve become quite interested in World War II, and I’ve read several books about the Holocaust, so I was eager to finally get a chance to give Sarah's Key a read. I’d heard great things about this novel, but wanted to wait for the hype to die down before reading it myself. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the delay made any difference. The positives? Well, the short chapters made for a very quick read. Going into the book, I was not familiar with Vel’ d’Hiv, so I appreciated learning about this particular event in Parisian history. However, short chapters, alternating between time periods, does not a great read make. Julia’s narrative is trite and melodramatic, and it was all I could do to continue reading about her unhappy marriage and obsession with Sarah’s life. The novel’s conclusion is contrived and sappy, and I’m fairly certain I’ll take a pass on de Rosnay’s new novel, A Secret Kept.
On Vel’ d’Hiv’:
There had been over four thousand Jewish children penned in the Vel’d’Hiv’, aged between two and twelve. Most of the children were French, born in France.
None of them came back from Auschwitz.
On a memorial on the boulevard de Grenelle:
On July 16 and 17, 1942, 13,152 Jews were arrested in Paris and the suburbs, deported and assassinated at Auschwitz. In the Velodrome d’Hiver that once stood on this spot, 1,129 men, 2,916 women, and 4,115 children were packed here in inhuman conditions by the government of the Vichy police, by order of the Nazi occupant. May those who tried to save them be thanked. Passerby, never forget!
Final thoughts: This is most definitely not of the same caliber as The Book Thief.
And yet, these three words spoke to me:
Zakhor. Al Tichkah.
Remember. Never forget.