Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
Synopsis: 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.
My thoughts: I absolutely love learning and reading about WWII and the Holocaust (don’t know why because it’s so heartbreakingly devastating), so most of the historical fiction that I read is set in that time period. I’ve shied away from the ones that connect the past to the present because I love the history aspect so much, I don’t really care to break away from the 1940’s to read about the character set in later years. Sarah’s Key changed that for me.
As I began reading, I was frustrated with how short the chapters were, only because I loved reading about the little girl taken by the Nazis and would grow impatient when it came time to read about the reporter Julia.
However, as time went on I became more interested and invested in Julia, as well as Sarah, and could not wait to find out how they connected. The short chapters were an excellent style choice, in my opinion, because it really upped the ante and added a somehow classy, sophisticated, and somber tone to the book as a whole.
The story was captivating and the writing amazing. The characters were well thought out and developed, and I liked how they were all real people with good qualities but flawed as well, just like real humans are, so I equally liked and disliked nearly all of them. They sucked me into the story to the point where I couldn’t put it down until I finished.
And the ending. That ending. When a book is about so many awful and sad things, sometimes it can be easy to hope—and maybe even expect—a nice happy ending to tie it all up and make you feel good. Sarah’s Key gives no such ending. Was there some crazy plot twist or unexpected death or invasion of aliens? No. It wasn’t a sad ending, and I think I actually would classify it as a happy one despite the lack of roses and glitter. It was a realistic ending. The book brought history to life and then did those events justice by giving the story the realism it deserved, reminding us to never forget where we come from.
It really just left the impression that life goes on. Not always in the way we want or expect, but it does just the same. And we can either hang on to the past and never be happy, or choose to let go and see where you end up.
Rated 5/5 for beautiful prose, haunting history and realistic characters