Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Book ~ "Sarah's Key" (2008) Tatiana de Rosnay

From Amazon ~ 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.

There are two stories in this book that run parallel ... Sarah's story and Julia's story.

Sarah's story is quite tragic, yet interesting. Sarah is Jewish and living in Paris during World War II. One afternoon, the police come to take her family away, to eventually be killed. Thinking it is only for a couple hours, though, she hides her brother, Michael, in a closet and locks the door so he'll be safe. Weeks later, she is doing all she can to get back to Paris to let her brother out of the closet (hence the title about the key). In her ten-year-old mind, her biggest concern is that she thinks he will think she's abandoned him.

Julia's story is in 2002 and I found it less interesting. She's an American married to an arrogant cheating husband in Paris who is rude and mean to her. Yet she loves him and keeps forgiving him. I found her to be very weak and I didn't like her very much. Aside from her father-in-law and grandmother-in-law, her husband's family are not likable.

It gets interesting when she starts researching for an the article about Vél d'Hiv and discovers Sarah's story and it's more about that and less about Julia. The two stories eventually intersect and we learn what happened to Sarah.

I was okay with the ending. It seemed to be tidied up very neatly and conveniently ... but given how the story had shaped up, there wasn't much else it could do.

I'd recommend this book. As I said, if you can get past some of the details in Julia's story, it's a good story and makes us realize how lucky we are today.

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