Sarah’s Key

ImageThe novel “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana DeRosnay holds great promise initially, but then fizzles.  At the start of the novel, we are introduced to Sarah, a young girl in occupied France in the summer of 1942.  One horrible night, the police come to her home to transport her, her family, and tens of thousands of other Jews to the Velodrome d’Hiver in a notorious round-up ordered by the Nazis, but executed by the French.  The little girl, Sarah, locks her baby brother in a secret cupboard in the apartment, where she thinks he will be safe, promising to come back later for him.  Instead, the family is held in the stadium under nightmarish conditions, then transported out of the city on buses and trains to French interment camps.  There, the adults were torn from their children and shipped to death camps in Poland; the children disposed of later.  Sarah manages to escape, and the novel chronicles her heroic trek back to Paris in order to free her little brother.  This early part of the novel is told from two alternating points of view–Sarah, and an american journalist in Paris, Julia Jarmand, who is writing a story on the Val d’Hiv Round-up.  This technique is effective in that we follow Sarah’s story moving forward chronologically as we also see Julia working backward in time, uncovering the past and making startling discoveries.  The history become personal when Julia uncovers the fact that her husband’s family owns the very apartment from which Sarah’s family was taken that fateful night.  There are a lot of incredible coincidences in the story, but we forgive the author as long as the story is compelling and draws us along.  Unfortunately, the story reaches a climax when Sarah manages to return to Paris–then she drops out of the novel.  We are left with only Julia’s story–her search for the truth, her relationship with her vain and self-absorbed French husband, and her struggles with her in-laws who do not seem to care about the Round-up and want to forget the past.  The story lost my interest and sadly wandered on for several more chapters, wherein Julia searches for and finds Sarah’s son, William.  The son’s reaction to the story he never knew seems to me over-blown and bizarre. This whole portion of the book would have been better left of the cutting room floor.  Plot and character problems aside, it is a worthwhile read for no other reason than to educate people about that terrible round-up and extermination of French Jews (something I did not know about at all, I am ashamed to say).  The story does point a damning finger at Vichy France as well as the citizens today, who are portrayed as uninformed or uncaring. Overall, it is a worthwhile story because it fulfills its central theme: Never Forget!  Image

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1 Comment

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One response to “Sarah’s Key

  1. Susan

    Thanks, Lisa. I have the book on my shelf and haven’t read it yet. I appreciate the review.

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