First, thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read the Advance Reader’s Edition of Tatiana de Rosnay's first novel written in her native language of English. This accomplished international writer chose a little known historical event as the basis for her novel, Sarah's Key. This was the Velodrome d’Hiver (more commonly known as Vel de Viv) roundup of Jews in occupied Paris on July 16, 1942. While I have spent years studying the Holocaust especially as it affected Eastern European Jews, I had never learned about the roundups in France. I am glad that I loved the book, but I would have been happy to have learned something new about the Holocaust even if I had not been driven to complete the book.
The story begins with young Sarah in her family’s apartment being rounded up by French policemen. Her mother is calling for her to hurry as the policemen were getting impatient. Sarah looks to bring her brother with them and decides instead to lock him in a secret closet in their bedroom. She plans to release him when she returns. Of course, like many who did not want to believe, Sarah thought she would be back home very soon. Her story of survival is emotional and the reader feels her pain as the story unfolds slowly through the length of the novel.
In alternating chapters, we are brought to the current age and introduced to Julia who is an American journalist married to a Frenchman. She is assigned to write a story on the 40th anniversary of the Vel de Viv. She discovers that her life and Sarah’s are intertwined. In the process of unraveling the mysteries of the past, Julia learns about strength and courage; pain and comfort.
In the end the author brings the idea of remembrance into the spotlight. This fits in nicely with my own philosophy. We must find ways to help people to remember or understand what happened during the Holocaust of World War II. Perhaps it will help us to understand the Holocausts we are ignoring in today’s world.
I found the writing to be very emotive and sound. While the following quotes may or may not appear in the final publication, here are two of my favorite lines:
Think of the things you love, of the things that make you happy. (p. 39, ARE)
Her mother had become like a child. (p. 71, ARE)
I enjoyed the alternating chapters and felt the story lines were neatly arranged. Perhaps the story is improbable, but the history behind the story is based in reality. Doing some research myself, I found Occupied France: Commemorating the Deportation which is a picture and text tutorial with more details about the Vel de Viv. Thank you again to Tatiana de Rosnay and St. Martin’s Press. This is a book I will loan to others and ask for it back so I can read it again.
TITLE: Sarah’s Key
AUTHOR: Tatiana de Rosnay
RECOMMEND: I could not put this book down.