- 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. (taken from St. Martin’s Press)
This book alternates between little 10 year old Sarah living this nightmare and the modern day Julia Jarmond who is a journalist doing a story on the Vel d’Hiv’ roundup for the sixtieth anniversary of its occurance. It is a very compelling novel and extremely hard to put down even though I’m horrified reading the sections on Sarah. I keep wanting to read and keep praying that Sarah will at least come out of this alive.
I stopped myself at 120 pages last night but I’m just itching to get back to it. So far, Sarah and her family have been literally torn from their home and taken to the velodrome where thousands of other Jewish families have been taken also. The conditions are absolutely horrible—there is no water, no food; nor is there any proper medical care and it’s very hot. Sarah just doesn’t understand what is happening to her once sheltered life. She’s scared and confused—her parents look beaten, her mother unrepsonsive. Her feelings can be summed up in this thought from her:
- ‘Why was this happening to her? What had she done, or her parents done, to deserve this? Why was being Jewish so dreadful? Why were Jews being treated like this?’ (pg. 47, an ARC copy-may be different in final published copy)
Why indeed, this is a question that keeps pounding in my head over and over again as I read of the horrors occuring. I know how mean people can be but for myself I can’t wrap my mind around being that cruel to anybody. After days in these conditions, Sarah’s family was taken away on buses again to a camp where after some time she ended up separated from her parents who had been taken away to death camps. What horrified me even further was that they called the whole operation of taking the Jewish people from their homes, throwing them in these awful conditions and treating them like animals in the velodrome to taking them to Auschwitz — Operation Spring Breeze.
France sent 80, 000 Jews to death camps and only a few thousand made it back. Of those, hardly any were children. Reading this novel has my emotions on edge. There are many parts in this book that have me in tears. There are some good tears too though because even through all the horror there were still some good people who tried their best to help.
I haven’t touched much on Julia Jarmond. I will on Thursday. Today I wanted to talk more about the importance of this novel. The importance of telling this story, of making people aware of the horrors that occurred back in July 1942. That is only 67 years ago—have we learned enough to this point in our lives to make sure it never happens again. There are days I’m not so sure when I watch television and still see the horrible things happening all over the world.
If you’d like to catch up on our chats, check out the links…
- Monday was at The Printed Page
- Tuesday (is above by yours truly at Peeking Between the Pages)
- Wednesday will be at The Printed Page
- Thursday will be here at Peeking Between the Pages
- Friday will be a wrap-up between The Printed Page and Peeking Between the Pages
I’ll be back Thursday with more thoughts at By the Chapter. Please join me. And check back tomorrow at The Printed Page for more thoughts on this novel from Marcia.