Title: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Length: 9 hrs 58 min
Release Date: June 12, 2007
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: personal copy
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.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.
This book had some very good parts. Sarah’s story, the story of the Vel d’Hiv round-up, representative of countless other children taken from Paris that day, was tragic and captivating. And because it is the story of a French girl, rather than a German or Polish one, it gives us a bit of a different perspective on what was happening. In fact, Sarah’s story is so good that I wish it had been the entire book. But instead, we are stuck discovering it through Julia.
I wasn’t a big fan of Julia. She was fine early on in the book, when we had Sarah’s narration to break hers up. But later in the book a lot of things about her rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like her obsession with Sarah’s story was very over-the-top, despite the connection to her apartment. Her neglect of her pregnancy, in particular, bothered me. I also didn’t like that we only got the bad things about her husband. He is almost never displayed in a good light, when there must have been some good there for her to marry him in the first place.
I also didn’t care for the way the book finished. Not because of how Sarah’s story ended — that actually made a lot of sense — but because of the relationship that Julia forms. It just didn’t fit for me.
Overall, this story is worth reading if you want to learn something about France during the war. But don’t be surprised if Julia kills it for you.
- “That said, I have to say that I found both plot and characters of ‘Sarah’s Key’ to be unconvincing.” — The Buddha Diaries
- “This is a good story and tells of a time that is not well known in World War II history, so for that purpose, I would recommend it.” — Crazy for Books
- “Sarah’s Key is an excellent novel with many thought provoking questions.” — S. Krishna’s Books