Friday, October 17, 2008

Review: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Having no fore knowledge of the large part France played in the rounding up of Jewish people during WWII, I was stunned to learn French police arrested their own citizens during this horrific time. Out of close to 13,000 Jewish people arrested, 4,000 of them were children. They were kept at the Velodrome d’Hiver, Vel d’Hiv for short, for close to a week then transported to an internment camp and from there the eventual destination; Auschwitz.

Eventually the French government admitted their part in this horrifying segment of their past. The memorial constructed in Paris is inscribed with the names of all the Jewish families rounded up and transported to death camps. The inscription: Remember, Never Forget is a message well worth repetition.

The story begins with the sound of banging on the apartment door in the middle of the night. The girl woke up first and as she ran to wake her mother, the banging resumes. Open up, Police, open up! The police tell the mother to get dressed as they are taking her and her daughter. While the mother is packing and getting dressed, the girl locks her little brother in the hidden closet and pockets the key, an act that will have far reaching and devastating affects on many people for years to come. In this opening chapter set in Paris in 1942 ,de Rosnay sets the heart- racing scene, the fear from the mother and daughter is almost palpable.

Segueing seamlessly from 1942 to 2002 the story is then told from two alternating points of view, one from Sarah, the little Jewish girl, and one by Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in Paris with her French family. When Julia is given an assignment to write about the upcoming sixtieth anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv, she begins her research into this tragic event. Julia is appalled to find a lot of people were not even aware this had happened in their own country and others just wanted to forget the past. Julia is not deterred from delving further as she develops a deep emotional connection to Sarah. When the two story lines converge and sixty year old secrets involving Julia’s in-laws and their Parisian apartment are brought to light, the ripple effect changes Julia’s life and that of her family forever. She finds out who is surprisingly strong and who is weak.

I think a lot of Julia’s story, especially that of her marital state, is superfluous. This sideline is merely a distraction creating a reasonably predictable ending. Despite this, De Rosnay has written a wonderfully heart- wrenching story with a poignancy that is sure to stay with the reader for a long time to come. Tatiana de Rosnay writes with a fine sense of detail and her chilling descriptions makes the reader not want to put this book down until the very end. Highly recommended. 4 ½ *


  1. I heard this book was good. After reading your review I'm even more interested. Great job! Again!

  2. Hi,
    I came over to visit you after you left a comment on my blog, about the book I am giving away, involving a French pastry school. I agree with you, pastry is scrumptious.
    Also, like you, I love penguins and even wrote an article about how they were rescued from the New Orleans Zoo after Katrina.

  3. I just received this book, and look forward to reading it. I've heard wonderful things, and now can't wait to read it!


  4. I am looking forward to reading this book.
    Great Review!


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