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Lunch » Tags » Book » Reviews » Sarah's Key » User review

beautifully constructed, powerfully told

  • Feb 8, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+3
Do you choose books by their covers? I remember looking many times at Sara's Key in the store. The cover has a very French-looking image, slightly sepia-toned, of a small boy and girl running where parents might ask them to walk, with the Eiffel Tower standing tall in the distant sky. It intrigued me, but the words, such as "profoundly moving...morally challenging...nothing short of miraculous..." underneath weren't enough to encourage me to buy.

Luckily something was enough to encourage my friend, and she loaned me her copy recently, for which I'm profoundly grateful. Sara's Key is a lovely book, a superbly constructed tale set in past and present, with the sort of timing that leaves the reader breathlessly coming up on a conclusion just as the secret's about to be revealed.

Of course, that conclusion comes only half-way through the book, and there's a longer present-day tale, full of the consequences of secrets hid and mysteries revealed. There are no easy answers in this book, and nobody comes off as perfect. But with all the characters' flaws and imperfections, there's a truth and honesty that shines stubbornly through.

The novel centers round the arrest and deportation of French Jews in Paris during World War II, and the subsequent cover-up. I already knew the main points of the story, having grown up in Europe, but the novel makes them personal in a very powerful way, following a young girl who has hidden her brother away to keep him safe just before the French police arrive. Hope and despair alternative in the reader as well as on the page, while 60 years later an American woman, married to a Frenchman, tries to uncover the past without hurting her family or the children of the present.

The dilemmas of life and death, risk and security, truth and comfort all thread through Rosnay's tale. How do we protect those we love and stay true to ourselves? And what if we fail?

I didn't cry when I read this book, but I nearly did. The ending actually disappointed me, though I'm not sure why; it was certainly true to the tale. But maybe such a story isn't set up to please. I truly loved it and will probably buy a copy of my own one day so I can read it again, and maybe I'll understand why the ending is just right.

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More Sarah's Key reviews
review by . July 06, 2010
This is a story that was both emotionally difficult to read, yet important to our history. While the story itself is fiction, the historical events described in the book are sadly all true. The setting is during World War II, and the Vel d'Hiv Roundup, when over 10,000 children and their families were taken from French homes and sent to concentration camps. The Vel d’Hiv is not commonly known, as it was French police that sent the children away, not Nazi soldiers. Sarah’s Key tells …
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Tear-jerker, but something everyone should remember.
review by . November 26, 2008
A modern day American journalist becomes obsessed with the near-forgotten round up of Jews living in Paris in July 1942 (later to be sent to Auchwitz) and more specifically, the plight of a desperate young Jewish girl, Sarah.     This mesmerizing story unfolds through chapters bouncing between the perspectives of Julia (the journalist) and Sarah (the Jewish girl). Julia discovers a personal connection to the young girl that threatens her relationship between herself and her husband's …
review by . November 20, 2008
Tatiana de Rosnay has created a powerful addition to holocaust literature in this moving story of a child and a woman, half a century apart, linked by wrenching events in France during World War II. Many readers may have been unaware of the extent of collaboration between France's Vichy government and the German Nazi occupiers, and few are likely to have read of the round-up of Jews in Paris which comprises the core event in this book.    This is first rate fiction and de Rosnay …
review by . November 10, 2008
Tatiana de Rosnay really painted herself into a corner when she decided on the structure of Sarah's Key, her touching portrayal of one of the darkest incidents in French history, the July 16, 1942 roundup of Parisian Jews by the French police for their eventual transport to the Auschwitz death camp. De Rosnay chose to tell her tragic story by alternating the first person narrative of Sarah Starzynski, a little girl caught up in the roundup with her family, and Julia Jarmond a journalist assigned …
review by . October 08, 2008
The story of Sarah captured my imagination for several days. I had anticipated a quick read, but I became so involved with Sarah and Julia, the main characters, that I was carried away by this book. It is an emotional and sometimes difficult novel, but well worth your time. The characters are very real, the story true to history, and the writing excellent.     I feel that the narrative flowed naturally through most of the story. The last few chapters were a bit forced, but the …
review by . October 07, 2008
Before reading this novel, I knew little about the efforts of the French government to round up and deport Jews from Paris; reading this fictional account was a chilling reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. As modern-day protagonist Julia unravels the sad tale of Sarah, a ten year old Jewish girl taken from Paris during the Vel' d'Div', she also unravels the story of her French husband and his family. Working through unexpected life changes (including her husband's infidelity) and struggling …
About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth ()
Ranked #41
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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Starred Review.De Rosnay's U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél' d'Hiv' roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand's family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand's family, about France and, finally, herself. Already translated into 15 languages, the novel is De Rosnay's 10th (but her first written in English, her first language). It beautifully conveys Julia's conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah's trials so riveting, her innocence so absorbing, that the book is hard to put down.(July)
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ISBN-10: 0312370849
ISBN-13: 978-0312370848
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
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