Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Sarah’s Key

Posted by nliakos on January 30, 2012

by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s Griffin 2007)

First I saw the movie based on this novel. I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it if I had known what it was about. I usually avoid holocaust books and movies; they are too upsetting. But I was glad I saw it, and so when the opportunity presented itself to read the book, I took it.  Knowing how it turned out certainly did not spoil the experience–I was immediately drawn into the twin stories of Sarah and Julia and finished the book in just a few days, hardly able to put it down.

For almost half of the novel, Sarah’s chapters alternate with Julia’s. Sarah is ten, living in Paris with her parents, Jewish immigrants from Poland, when the French police, in an overly enthusiastic response to Nazi orders to round up and deport Jewish adults, arrest thousands of toddlers and children as well, separate them from their parents, leave them without food and water for days in the Vélodrome d’Hiver in the middle of Paris, and eventually send them to their deaths in Auschwitz. Sarah and her parents are taken to the Vel’ d’Hiv’; her four-year-old brother Michel hides in a secret closet in their apartment to wait for Sarah to return, which of course she cannot do.  Sixty years later, Julia, an American woman married to a philandering Frenchman, is investigating the story of the roundup for the magazine she works for when she discover,s to her horror, that the apartment that she and her family are planning to move into had been occupied by one of the Jewish families arrested in the roundup–specifically, it turns out, by Sarah’s family. As Julia’s marriage falters, she becomes obsessed with finding Sarah, or at least, with finding out what happened to her, since she was apparently never deported with the thousands of other children who were with her in the Vel’ d’Hiv’.

At the halfway point, Sarah’s story ends with her return to Paris, where she learns with finality how her brother died; but Julia’s story continues on for another 140 pages, as she struggles to decide between her husband and her unborn child while continuing to search for Sarah.

A wonderful book.

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One Response to “Sarah’s Key”

  1. […] held my interest, but none except the first (“Hotel Room”) really stuck in my mind. Sarah’s Key was much […]

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