Daily Archives: September 5, 2008

Sarah’s Key – Book Review

She closed the door on the little white face, turned the key in the lock. Then she slipped the key into her pocket. The lock was hidden by a pivoting device shaped like a light switch. It was impossible to see the outline of the cupboard in the paneling of the wall. Yes, he’d be safe there. She was sure of it. The girl murmured his name and laid her palm flat on the wooden panel. “I’ll come back for you later. I promise.” -From Sarah’s Key, page 9-

Paris. Spring 1942. The Vel’ d’ Hiv’ (Operation Spring Breeze). Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel Sarah’s Key revolves around this deplorable historic event. Operation Spring Breeze was a French-led “round-up” of more than 13,000 Parisian Jews (mostly women and children) under order of the Nazis. Initially kept in inhumane conditions at the Vélodrome d’Hiver (an indoor cycle track), these victims of the Holocaust were eventually moved to concentration camps inside France (where they were guarded by French gendarmes) and later moved to Auschwitz where they were slaughtered. The roundup accounted for more than a quarter of the 42,000 Jews sent from France to Auschwitz. The Vel’ d’ Hiv’ has become of symbol of national shame in France.

De Rosnay has created a work of fiction which imagines a child caught in the round-up and how that one moment in history can have repercussions far into the future.

Sarah is a ten year old girl who is awakened on the night of July 16, 1942 to French policemen pounding on her family’s door. In an attempt to save her four year old brother, she locks him in a closet – their secret hiding place – and promises to return later.

Julia Jarmond is an American married to a French man and living in Paris in 2002. A journalist, she is given the assignment to write about the Vel’ d’ Hiv’ for the 60 year remembrance of this tragic event.

The novel alternates between Sarah’s POV after her arrest with that of present-day Julia as she begins to unravel not only the historical significance of the 1942 Jewish round-up, but discovers a connection to her own life.

Sarah’s Key is a compelling page-turner, especially in the early part of the novel. De Rosnay writes with empathy and does not spare the reader any details of the horror which concentration camp victims faced. I found Sarah’s story the most engaging – she was the character who I wanted to know and whose mystery kept me turning the pages. Julia, although less interesting, provides the reader with a current perspective of how we examine our past history – and how that history can impact the present.

The novel’s weakness is a tendency to fit the plot around history in such a way that some events feel contrived. De Rosnay introduces several twists and turns which are sometimes predictable. Julia’s husband, Bertrand, is a cookie-cutter character whose penchant for chauvanism and narcissism had me wondering why any woman would want to spend time with him.

But, despite these flaws, Sarah’s Key is still a riveting piece of literature which is hard to put down.

Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Friday Finds – September 5, 2008

September 5, 2008

I managed to wade through nearly 400 posts from my Google Reader this morning and my eyes are tired! It has been a busy work week for me and so you might notice my Friday Finds list today is shorter than usual.

Mind of A Raven, by Bernd Heinrich as featured on Jeane’s blog  Dog Ear Diary. This is a non fiction book and although I prefer fiction, I love to read interesting books about animals. Jeane writes about Heinrich’s book: ‘It’s full of information about the birds’ social interactions, relationships with predators, evidence of problem-solving, how they raise their young, what many of their calls mean, etc.‘ I think I’ll have to check this one out.

Persepolis I and II, by Marjane Satrapi has been recommended by many readers since I posted my review of Maus I & II. I am new to the graphic story form and these two books seem like the next best picks in this genre.

What have you found this week to tempt you? Visit today’s post on Should Be Reading and leave Jenn a comment.

Thanks to My Loyal Readers…

…Caribousmom has not only been nominated, but has made the finalist list in the Best Literary Fiction Blog category for Book Blogger Appreciation Week! I am thrilled to have made the “finals” and want to thank each of you who thought to nominate this blog. Voting has now started to choose the winners in each category. To vote, visit My Friend Amy at this post by September 12th.

When I started this blog at the end of 2006 it began as a personal blog of my thoughts about life in general. I never imagined it would grow the way it has and receive the kind of support it has gotten from the blog world. I am truly honored.