Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is another one of my favorite reads of this year. It is a powerful story that led my emotions on a roller coaster ride. The author completely draws you into this story; so much so that you can feel the story come alive in your mind—you can feel the pain and horrors that the Jewish people went through and you weep tears for them. The story alternates between Sarah back in 1942 and Julia Jarmond in 2002. The way their stories will come together is truly fascinating.
The story starts with ten year old Sarah waking up to pounding on her apartment door. It is the French police. They order her and her mother to get dressed and come with them. In the meantime Sarah’s little brother hides in this secret cupboard in their bedroom. Sarah locks him in and promises she’ll be back as soon as the police release them. This never happens and we don’t find out anything about Sarah’s brother until the end of the story.
Sarah and her parents are taken in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup that night and taken to the velodrome where they are kept in horrific conditions for days without food or drink with thousands and thousands of other Jewish people. Many die there. Later they are taken away again, this time for the death camps. Sarah manages to escape though and her journey to survive is terrifying. Her only thought is to get back to her brother like she promised.
The other viewpoint in the novel is Julia Jarmond, a journalist living in Paris. She’s given the assignment of writing about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup for the sixtieth anniversary of it’s occurrence. Julia is horrified by what she learns as she had never known that this even happened before being assigned this story. It seems that the roundup of the Jews is never spoken about. Julia pushes on though and does more research. What she ends up finding she could never have imagined–Sarah’s story has such a deep connection with her husband’s family. Julia finds herself really caring about Sarah’s story and needing to find some closure in it for herself.
This novel is very emotional and really not an easy read. There is a lot of disturbing material to get through. Is it a good read and one worth reading–absolutely! It’s also an important book as how many people are out there who didn’t know about this roundup of Jewish people in 1942? I’ve read books on the Holocaust but have never heard of this happening. I was horrified and heartbroken. The story is very well written and never confusing even with jumping into the past and present.
I participated in a chat for this novel and more of my thoughts can be seen in a few of the posts I did here, here and here. To end, I’d like to leave off with a quote that is extremely important. This is a book I won’t soon forget, if ever.
- ‘Zakhor, Al Tichkah. Remember. Never forget. In Hebrew.’ (pg 288, taken from ARC copy, final published copy may be different)