Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: Sarah's Key

Last week, I started and finished Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. It was one of those books that immediately grabbed me and didn't let go until I had read the final page. I could have stayed up all night and read it the first night, but the reality of my 5:15 alarm kept me from doing that. It is truly a page turner. In this book, Rosnay weaves together two stories - the story of Sarah Starzynski, a Jewish child living in occupied Paris in 1942, and Julia Jarmond, an expatriate journalist living in Paris in 2002. Rosnay skillfully weaves the story of these two together, alternating between the two stories throughout the book.

The book is about an event in history referred to as the "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" which occurred on July 16-17 in 1942. During those 2 days, French policemen arrested approximately 13,000 Jews and sent them onto their death. Rosnay tells the story of the round-up through the eyes of Sarah Starzynski, a young child of 12 that was living in an apartment in Paris. When the police came to arrest Sarah's family, she locked her 4 year old brother in a secret cupboard. Since the police were Frenchmen, she assumed they would be unharmed and would return to their apartment. Unfortunately, she was wrong. The 13,000 Jews were rounded up by their fellow countrymen - men they thought they could trust.

60 years later, Julia Jarmond is writing a story to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of this horrible roundup. She begins to research the events of July 16-17th 1942, and finds that her life is entwined with the story of Sarah Starzynski.

I can't say much more without giving too much away. I highly recommend this book. At points, it was difficult to read It is definitely a heavy subject, but I think it's important to read books based during this awful time. I had never heard of the Vel' d'Hiv - nor had many French people until 1995 when President Jacques Chirac apologized for the complicit role of French police and civil servants. There is a memorial in Paris dedicated to the lives that were lost - I hope to visit it when I return to Paris some day.

Have you read this book? Have you heard of the Vel' d'Hiv? Are there any other WWII books that you have read and enjoyed?

14 comments:

Kyla Roma said...

I'm completely fascinated by history and especially the world wars, but I've read very little about them since university. This definitely sounds like one I need to put on my list! Thanks!

Carolina John said...

my mother read it and loved it! very cool review.

Cherry Blossoms said...

Great review. I may have to suggest this at my next book club meeting!

Becky said...

This sounds really good! It's going on my TBR list - thanks for the recommendation!

Kelly said...

I just read Sarah's Key a couple of weeks ago so I am so happy you did a review on it while it's still very fresh in my mind. I thought it was a really good book and taught me even more about World War II that I did not know. I think most of the books I had read before dealt more with Germany & Poland rather than France. For some reason I really like the liked girl part more than the woman...for some reason she seemed a little unbelievable to me...I'm not sure why.

Anais said...

I've never read that book but I've heard of the Vel d'hiv because I went to a french school... it's so sad :(

Nora said...

I've heard of this book only because you told me about it =)

I recommend reading "Suite Francaise," if you haven't already. It's a poignant, lovely, emotional book about WWII, several families stories all woven together.

I suppose I'll have to add this book to my list as well!

Nicole said...

I've had this on my TBR list for a short time. I might have to bump it up a bit.

Lisa-Marie said...

I haven't read the book, but in Scotland, everyone studies WW2 in school is P7(when they are 11) and then again in high school, so I am aware of the event. The was a section on it when we went to Auschwitz as well.

I really want to read the book now!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I've never heard of that either but I'm completely fascinated by history books and would probably enjoy it! I will have to see if my local library has it!

pinkflipflops said...

It's been on my TBR list for a couple of months. I suggested it one month for our group read and it didn't win. So I won'tbe reading it until I can read all my other books that are stacked up in my living room. I love WWII books and that whole time period.

Mandy said...

I bought this book last week and its actually sitting right beside me waiting for me to pick it up. I can't wait to read it. I spent a lot of time in college working on a pretty extensive project involving WWII and the Holocaust. Its such a sad time, but I had the opportunity to talk to some survivors, its so important that their stories be told.

J said...

My bff Kaylie was just telling me about this book and how much she loved it! She said she read it in one day!! Its on my list to check out of the library!

Shoshanah said...

I read this book a few months ago, and since then haven't ever really been able to forget. There's a few parts that really just seem to leave you speechless.