April 11, 2011

Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Historical Fiction
2007 St. Martin’s Griffin
Finished on 3/24/11
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

Publisher’s Blurb:

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.


  1. Sorry this didn't work for you.

  2. Anonymous6:11 PM

    I haven't actually read this one yet. When it was a choice (among 4) for our book group, some of the ladies that read it said some of the same things that you did. Probably why I haven't rushed to read it. Pretty cover though.

  3. I liked this book, but I agree there are better books on the same subject...

  4. Well, my friend, if you go to my review:


    And read your comment and mine back, you'll get a kick out of them. As you may expect, and remember, I loved it to pieces. I really enjoyed this book so very much. Ha ha! We amaze me. :<)

  5. I have picked this up many times, but others have been chosen over it. I'm bummed that you weren't thrilled with it. I hope my experience is better when I finally get to it. :)

  6. Like Nan, I also liked this book - quite a lot. I can't remember now what I said about it in my review, but it held my interest - maybe more than The Book Thief.

  7. I liked but didn't love this book, although I can't remember why -- something about the modern portion put me off, I think. There aren't many books the caliber of The Book Thief, really. Between Shades of Gray is the most recent Holocaust book I've read and I thought it was very good, but nothing has blown me away quite like The Book Thief, since I read it.

  8. Kathy - Me, too.

    Kay - I think this is one of those books that I enjoyed more while I was reading it, but upon reflection (while writing my review) found fault with the overall experience. I know I lost a little bit of enthusiasm when the narrative shifted to the present day story.

    Kailana - I'm afraid there's just nothing as good as The Book Thief (with regard to the Holocaust). I really had high hopes for this one...

    Nan - I just re-read your review (and my comment) and, yes, I got a kick out of both. We are so predictable, aren't we?! :) This is why I'm always astounded when we actually agree on a book!

    Joy - You never know. You may wind up loving it. :)

    Andi - I need to go back and re-read your review. Especially if it held your interest more than The Book Thief!!

    Nancy - Did you review it? I'll have to go back and see what you said. I agree. There really aren't many books that are as amazing as The Book Thief. I'm anxious to read Between Shades of Gray now. I've got it in my stacks.

  9. I really liked this one but I am passing on the next one because I've read so many poor reviews of it.

  10. Staci - I have the ARC of the second, but I think I'll take it back to work so someone can have a chance to read it.

  11. You and I had pretty much the some reaction to this book. The only thing I really enjoyed was learned about Vel’ d’Hiv’, which was an event I'd known nothing about.

  12. Katya - Oh! So good to know that I'm not completely in the minority here! Like you, the only thing I enjoyed (for lack of a better word) was learning about Vel' d'Hiv'.


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