Book Review: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana DeRosnay
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of Pages: 294
My Rating: 4
Summary from GoodReads.com:
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.
Sarah’s Key jumps back and forth between a young girl in Paris, 1942 and a present-day journalist in Paris, 2002. Sarah’s family is Jewish during World War II and have been scared and on-edge, something that ten-year-old Sarah doesn’t quite understand. What is happening to them? Why does her dad hide in the cellar at night? Police come to their door to take them away and Sarah quickly locks her little brother in a cupboard to protect him, assuming they will be back soon…
Julia Jarmond is a journalist in Paris who is assigned to research and write an article about a dark day in France’s past that no one wants to talk about. It is coming up on the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup where families were held for days on end without adequate food or facilities until they were shipped off to different concentration camps. She is oddly entranced by this history and feels a connection to a certain little girl. As she uncovers more and more about Sarah and her past, she discovers some new facts that somehow link them together through the years.
While Julia is investigating, she is also dealing with marriage problems and other personal issues that take a big toll on her. She is spreading herself thin and gets so caught up in finding out about Sarah that she begins to feel apathetic towards her husband and their failing marriage. At times I felt frustrated with the Julia chapters as she seemed to complain a lot about things but then didn’t really stand up for anything or make any changes to help things out for the better. I really liked the Sarah chapters and wished the author would have spent a little bit more time on her journey instead of on Julia being a doormat.
I loved the historical aspects of this book. Even though it is a work of fiction, many of the events in history are accurate and are ones that don’t receive a ton of attention. It was amazing to learn so much about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup in France during World War II as that was a piece of history I had never read about before. Overall, I felt like Tatiana de Rosnay did an excellent job researching this subject and bringing it all to our attention. She shared an important historical experience with readers in a unique way and for that I applaud her. If Rosnay’s main mission in writing this book was to ensure we became aware of the children of Vel’ d’Hiv, then she succeeded.