Sarah’s Key has been on my radar since it first came out in 2007. I kept meaning to read it but never got around to it. Then they made a movie and I knew I’d want to read the book before I saw the film. Was it good? Yes. Five star good? No. Will I watch the movie and probably get all teary eyed? Yes. Will I keep the book? No.
Back of the book:
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting French families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard – their secret hiding place – and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.
Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.
It’s hard not to get overwhelmed at the number of fictional books out there centered around the Holocaust during WWII. I’ve read a number of them so I am always in awe of authors who manage to find something “new” and manage to make it a fascinating, absorbing, and moving story. Before Sarah’s Key, I had never heard of the French police’s involvement and the absolutely horrendous treatment of children during the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. Sometimes it’s easier to just blame the Nazi’s but Ms de Rosnay’s ability to remind us that ordinary people in any time period are capable of committing horrendous acts and how such horrible events are already becoming forgotten. It is unbelievably sad.
On top of the Holocaust and the craziness that was the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, Ms de Rosnay manages to throw in the story of a young boy locked in a cupboard by his ten year old sister because just like it seems unfathomable to us, it was unimaginable to her that she would not be returning to her home. Sarah’s story, while fictional, is one that everyone should read about and remember so history such as hers is never repeated.
I understood why Sarah’s Key was interspersed with Julia Jarmond’s story. I think to have the whole story centered around Sarah would have been almost too hard to read. I liked Julia’s quest to uncover the truth, to find out who Sarah was and what happened to her, to want to tell her that people like Julia will never forget what happened. But there is much of Julia’s personal story that got in the way and I felt it was almost distracting. I could have done without the drama of her failing marriage or her husband’s infidelity or her being l’américain in Paris.
Spare some time and check it out!