Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
St. Martin's Griffin, 2008
293 pages

My friend Sophie from Belgium sent me this book with a note that said she read it on a plane from Sydney to London and couldn't put it down until she finished. Having been on two flights from Sydney to the USA, I know how a good book can make that incredibly long journey easier.  Sophie was right. Sarah's Key is the type of book that hooks you from the first couple of pages, and it doesn't let go until the very last word.

There are actually two story lines, both taking place in Paris. The first is in July 1942, when a young girl and her mother are roused in the middle of the night by someone pounding on their apartment door. The girl makes a split-second decision to lock her little brother in a secret cabinet -- a place where they'd played hiding games in the past -- and she takes the key with her. She thinks she's coming back soon. What she doesn't realize is that she won't be going back -- ever. You see, that was the night that French police removed hundreds, maybe thousands of Jewish families from their homes and took them to the Velodrome d'Hiver, in what history now calls the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. Most were eventually taken to Auschwitz.

Sixty years later, Julia, a middle-aged journalist -- an American who's lived in Paris for over half of her life -- is struggling with moving into a new home and dealing with a husband she's outgrown. She gets an assignment to look into the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, which she'd never heard of previously. Come to find out, most French people of her generation and younger haven't heard of it, either, or don't know much about it. The people who do remember seem to want it swept under the rug, or at least that's how it seems to Julia.

As she investigates the events surrounding this painful moment in France's history, Julia learns about a young girl named Sarah, whose tragic story will break your heart. She also learns a great deal about herself. I can't tell you much more without revealing too much. I'll just say I loved it, and hopefully you will, too.

Thanks, Sophie! :-)