Synopsis (from Amazon)
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old Jewish girl, is arrested by the French police in the middle of the night, along with her mother and father. Desperate to protect her younger brother, she locks him in a cupboard and promises to come back for him as soon as she can.
Paris, May 2002: Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, is asked to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv‘–the infamous day in 1942 when French police rounded up thousands of Jewish men, women and children, in order to send them to concentration camps. Sarah’s Key is the poignant story of two families, forever linked and haunted by one of the darkest days in France’s past. In this emotionally intense, page-turning novel, Tatiana de Rosnay reveals the guilt brought on by long-buried secrets and the damage that the truth can inflict when they finally come unravelled.
It is very true that little is told about the German occupation of France during the second world war, until I read Sarah’s Key I had never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv and knew next to nothing about the German occupation of France (in fact it is sad to say that most of what I knew came from watching ‘Allo ‘Allo, which I am sure is very historically accurate!). I have read a lot of novels set around the world wars but I haven’t come across one set in France in the second world war before. I’m not sure if this is because they are rare or just that I happen not to have come across them. Sarah’s Key has certainly piqued my interest to read more about France during this time, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a work of historical fiction that has done that, and I would love some recommendations if any of you guys can think of another book like Sarah’s Key.
I feel I am going off on a tangent a little. Sarah’s Key was beautiful, heart wrenching, at times it was so sad I did not want to keep reading, but I did, I had to, and I’m glad I did. I loved Sarah. I loved her strength and determination. Seeing how she changed was so sad, no child should have to grow up that fast, but I think it was done well, I felt it shouldn’t have happened but in a way it gave a sense of hope. I didn’t like Julia’s side of the story so much but it was good to see how people looked back at that period of time and it broke up the sadness a little which made the book easier to read. Some parts of Julia’s story I found unnecessary (highlight for spoiler)such as the whole pregnancy and the problems that caused, it felt almost like adding a chunk of chick-lit into a serious book. Other bits I found unbelievable, (highlight for spoiler) I could see her going to America to chase down Sarah, especially as she had family there anyway, but her going to Italy to find Sarah’s son seemed a little far-fetched. The ending kind of spoiled the book for me too, it made it kind of clichéd, (highlight for spoiler) with Julia naming her child after Sarah (which was not only clichéd but also kind of predictable). I was at least glad that she didn’t end up with Sarah’s son but the suggestion was there.