A New York Times bestseller. 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.
I had to stay up late last night in order to finish this book. I was so drawn into the story that I knew there was no way I could fall asleep before finding out how it all ended. I was also so uncomfortable almost the whole time through Sarah's Key.
There are two plot lines running throughout the novel and both were sad and tragic. I wanted to know more (mostly, I wanted to know how it would end for the characters) while I also didn't want to read anymore because the characters were in such terrible positions.
Sarah, a young Jewish girl in Paris of 1942 is torn from her home, along with her family and Jewish neighbors, in the middle of the night by the French police. In what become known as the Vel' d'Hiv', Sarah and the others Jews were placed in a large building for days without any sanitary precautions and extremely little food. They are not told what will happen to them. During the raid, Sarah hid her younger brother in a small, locked cabinet in their apartment since she assumed they'd be home soon. Grief and disbelief struck her when she realized she was not going home and her brother was locked in a cabinet, and that she and her parents were going to be led to their deaths by the hands of her fellow Frenchmen.
Julie Jarmond, an American, is married to a Parisian man and has a daughter in Paris 2002. She loves Paris but lately she feels distant from her husband and Parisian life. As a journalist, she begins investigating the Vel' d'Hiv'. As her investigation deepens, she finds a connection between her and Sarah, leading to a wild goose chase for her Sarah.
I was horrified by Sarah's story. I had never heard of the events of the Vel' d'Hiv' or the actions of the French against the Jews in their own country. Sarah's story was incredibly tragic. Julie's story, though, also made me uncomfortable and sad. Along the way, she discovers that she is pregnant and expects her husband to be happy... he is not. He is going through a mid-life crisis and wants her to get an abortion. Julie's situation, while not a matter of life and death over a whole group of people, still deals with the possible death of her unborn baby or the death of her marriage. I could not imagine ever needing to make that choice.
Sarah's Key is enthralling and tragic, poignant and grievous. I recommend it for those ready to deal with many emotions while reading it. It's a quick read, but it definitely drained me emotionally.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars