Friday, December 2, 2011

Book 99: Sarah's Key

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay was a nice diversion book that really picked up steam the more you read it. It is an interesting blend of history and the present. It shows how difficult it can be for the French to come to grips with their past from the Holocaust.

This book was an interesting book since it highlights the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup that occurred on July 16, 1942 which ultimately sent thousands of French Jews to their deaths which were mainly women and children. The difficult aspect for the French is that this event wasn’t done by the Nazis, instead it was done by the French police on French transportation systems in the middle of Paris. It’s been hushed up and forgotten since in many cases the truth is just so painful to bar. To be honest before this book, I knew next to nothing about this roundup and how it singled out French children.

What I love about Sarah’s Key is that it had a great dialogue about digging up the painful events of the past and actually acknowledging them. There are times when it brings together a family and other times it will actually divide the family. Not everyone sees the value of digging up the past.

The book has two main characters and thus two points of view set in two different points of time. First there is Sarah who was a young Jewish girl who was part of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup who wants to stop at nothing to save her brother who was locked up in their secret cupboard. Then there is Julia Jarmond from today’s time. She is assigned to write an article about the roundup for the 60th university of the event. While she is learning about the event, she’s dealing with family issues and her own curiosity makes her dig into her own in-laws’ past. There were times I loved the shifts in perspective. Both were done crisply and well. But often the chapters were so short that I didn’t want the perspective to change. Then about mid-book, it’ becomes Julia’s story. Everything from the past is starting to come to light and wasn’t much place for continuing Sarah’s story.   

I like how the book took the time to say: “This is not a historical work and has no intention of being one. It is my tribute to the children of the Vel d’Hiv’. The children who never came back. And the ones who survived to tell.”This allows some of the liberties that seem a wee bit unbelievable in the lexicon of Holocaust events to make sense. It allows the reader to enjoy the fact that there are a lot of facts and research in the book but it doesn’t have to be taken so seriously that the suspension of disbelief isn’t destroyed.

So far I approve the books on the target Reading Club (Moloka’I was also on the list). Plus I like how the one aisle cap was right if I liked one, I would like the other book. If it wasn’t for the fact that this book was on sale and there was the option if I get two books from the Book Club, I could get a $5.00 gift card, I wouldn’t’ have been able to read such a good book.

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