Tuesday 27 December 2011

Sarah's Key

*Disclaimer: This is one of a number of book reviews I will be posting before the end of 2011. Beginning in 2012 the format for book reviews will change and I will post once at the end of each month, reviewing all books read during that month. 

Synopsis: "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."

The historical information about the French involvement in the holocaust was absolutely fascinating. I knew nothing of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup before and appreciate de Rosnay's thorough research and presentation of detail. The jump between war time and present day was a clever way to present the two plot lines, though I  found myself rushing through the Julia chapters in order to return to Sarah's story. I immediately fell in love with the beautifully created character of Sarah, though her story is tragic and heart-wrenching and I looked forward to the eventual joining of the two plot lines. While the writing itself was mediocre, I would recommend the story for its historical value and emotional journey.

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