“Sarah’s Key”

As a frequent reader, a good book strums at my heart strings. “Sarah’ Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay is a family story about tragedy and redemption. This book tells a fictitious tale about the Vel’d’Hiv roundup, a true a event in French history in  July of 1942.

During World War II, French police and civilians participated in the arrests of almost 13,ooo Jews, 4,000 of them being children. They were held in an outdoor stadium called Vélodrome d’Hiver, which is where the name of this event came from. The French police who were working with the Nazis, called this “Operation Spring Breeze.” By most Jews in France, the expectation was only the men to be arrested, so they went into hiding without their wives and children which resulted in the capture of majority women and children.

The set up of the book is an every-other-chapter character switch, meaning that in the first chapter, it is character Sarah Starzynski talking, and the next chapter is character Julia Jarmond speaking. It follows this pattern throughout almost the whole novel.

Sarah Starzynski is a ten year old Jewish girl who is arrested and is taken to the stadium with her parents where she is to grow up and gain the “eyes of an adult.” She, like everyone else taken, was stripped of her dignity and was treated like cattle.

Julia Jarmond on the other hand is an American born French citizen who is a journalist for a magazine.  She is assigned to cover the sixtieth commemoration of the Vel’d’Hiv roundup. In this story she is constantly troubled by the sad fact that she is 45 and had been living in france for 25 years with no knowledge of the darkest part of her country’s past.

Julia’s life is intricate and has events peppered throughout the pages that cause you, as a reader, to revaluate your assumptions of the ending of the tale, while Sarah’s story and the things she goes through along her journey has you begging for tissues.

A book with many twists and turns, I loved this book and encourage anyone with empathy to read it. The plot of the book that unravels to reveal the connection between Julia and Sarah is one that is a tear jerker and evokes rage chapter by chapter. It’s a story showing the shame of another country during the Holocaust that is never mentioned.