Helllllllo readers, hope you’re well! It’s been quite a dark week this week in terms of the types of books I’ve been reviewing! I think it’s because sometimes when I’m reading a book – if it is a book that I think is a little darker, or deserves a bit more of a careful review, I’ll put it off. However today I thought I would review a book I read forever ago but really deserves a review; Sarah’s Key.
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.
So, I guess first things first, this book is not a work of true historical fiction but is instead a tribute to the children of Vel d’Hiv. This novel takes a looks at the even of the 16th of July, where French Police rounded up Jews in Paris to be sent to Auschwitz. We are told the story of a ten year old girl, called Sarah, and a journalist from America, Julia Jarmond who is investigating around the event. As we start to read more into the story, it becomes more apparent that their two lives (past, and present,) are linked and we get to see this really upsetting but incredible story based on real events.
I might struggle really telling this tale, without giving too much away but I’ll try my best I promise! I thought this book was beautifully written; I thought that both the stories that mesh within modern day Paris were seamlessly told, neither one of them falters and they told almost perfectly alongside each other. Seeing the terror in Sarah as she lived in the terrifying times of Hitler’s reign and then seeing this reflected Julia’s eyes and the resignation that there were so few efforts to intervene in what was happening was really wonderfully done in an incredibly distressing but eye-opening way.
I thought the telling of the vel’d’hiv was brilliantly done and for someone that hasn’t really heard a lot about it before but has read and studied the holocaust I thought the book did a brilliant job of explaining the events and making it contemporary and intriguing. It’s done both accurately and horrifically but in a way that makes you want to learn more.
I also liked the way Julia finds her own life changing whilst she’s becoming more obsessed with finding the answers and finding Sarah’s family. I think the only wobble was a little bit at the end; I don’t want to spoil it but it just felt a little bit contrived to really finish the story and I thought it could have been handled a little gentler. I also found Julia’s marital relationship (no spoilers) a little bit difficult to warm to but that’s only a small wobble.
Overall, this is a really interesting book, full of heartbreak, struggle, history and family. It’s a shocking book but definitely one that tells an important tale and one that definitely needs to be shared. A beautiful story you need to read.