Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova (Luxury Reading)
I’ve heard great things about Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay ever since it was published in 2008 but never got around to reading it. I was thrilled to see it picked as the SheKnows Book Club selection for January and to finally experience this amazing yet heartbreaking story.
Sarah’s Key is a book of dueling stories – one of Sarah, a 10-year-old girl growing up in 1940’s Paris and another of Julia Jarmond, an American living in modern-day Paris – that come together in an unforgettable and haunting way.
Sarah Starzynski was born in France to Jewish parents. On the fateful day in July 1942, the family was rounded up by the French police along with thousands of other Jews and hoarded into Vel d’Hiv, an indoor sports stadium. Unaware of the permanence of the situation, Sarah locked her little brother in a hidden cupboard in their apartment and pocketed the key, promising to return for him as soon as possible.
Sixty years later, journalist Julia Jarmond is researching the Vel d’Hiv round up for an article commemorating the anniversary of the tragic event. Many of the people she speaks to know very little about Vel d’Hiv; others are embarrassed about the French involvement in the deportation of thousands of innocent Jewish families. What Julia does not expect is the strange reaction of her husband’s family to her questions and their mysterious connection to the Starzynski family.
I’ve read many books about the Holocaust but knew nothing about the fate of French Jews. Although Sarah’s Key is a work of fiction, De Rosnay based the book on the actual Vel d’Hiv round up that occurred on July 16 and 17, 1942. Sarah’s fictional trials could have easily been the reality for many children who were woken up from their beds, forced into inhumane conditions and eventually sent to their deaths. De Rosnay’s fluid writing style brings life to those terrible days in a story that will stay with you long after the final page.
Movie note: I rushed to see the movie after reading Sarah’s Key and was sad to see that it did not do justice to the book. Then again, do any movies ever do? The film version felt rushed and jumbled, and I was constantly filling in the missing pieces for my friends who have not read the book.
This book was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.