Sunday Book Review – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay – #HistoricalFiction

My Sunday Book Review was a riveting read by Tatiana De Rosnay – Sarah’s Key. Once again I came across this moving book after a fellow author shared her own gripping review for the book. As many of you know I’m drawn to historical fiction – particularly in the WWII era. As much as my empathy has me turning away from violence and abuse, I am drawn to the stories that take me on a journey of trying to understand the human condition and the triumph of those that survive the heinous war. The atrocities of war don’t always have to relate to the physical violence, but the atrocities of mankind that instill fear in those living daily struggling to survive is equally frightening, sometimes more than a hand or a stick being struck against them.

 

 

Blurb:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

 

My 5 Star Review (Really 4.5 stars, read on to discover why)

In this heart-grabbing story, it is told in two eras – the present day 2002) , where American journalist Julia – living in Paris for the past 25 years, is hired to do a story on the 60th anniversary of the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup by the French police, where 13,000 Jews were suddenly snatched from their homes in Paris, July 1942 and disappeared. Julia comes across a list of families taken on that fateful night, and later finds on the death list, one girl’s name is missing, despite her name being on the roundup list. Where did Sarah go? In the now, we are taken into Julia’s erratic life, marriage and stunningly, a common bond she discovers with Sarah of the past when Julia’s husband has chosen a new apartment for them to live in Paris.

Is it possible for anyone to survive the death camps? What happened to Sarah after that fateful night on July 16, 1942 after she and her parents were taken along with 13,000 others to the Velodrome stadium in Paris, once a sports arena, left to starve as they waited for days til their fates were sealed? Their crimes? They were Jews. The children were taken elsewhere separately and murdered, so as not to cause ‘alarm’ to onlooking citizens, while they watched parents loaded  onto buses headed for the train station and then loaded on like cattle in cattle trains, and were taken to their immediate deaths in Auschwitz.

In Julia’s investigation to try and solve what happened to Sarah from 1942, she travels from Paris to a farm community in Orleans, back to Paris, and then Italy where a lead takes her. When she returns to Paris she must deal with her newly discovered pregnancy that her philandering husband isn’t too excited about. Until she grows a pair and leaves him (finally) and moves back to New York.

The two stories converge when later, Julia discovers an incredible and heart-wrenching link between her husband’s family and Sarah’s family.

I found Julia’s life was a bit blase with some unnecessary filler, and I did not like the character of her husband and found Julia wasn’t empowering enough by staying way too long with her philandering husband. I can’t help but wonder how the book might have been more intense if it was told by Sarah in its entirety. Julia was banal, lacking dimension and gumption.  But this book was a great read with lots to keep me turning the pages. One of those – hard to put down books – despite my not loving the protagonist’s weakness as a woman. But Sarah’s story was absolutely riveting. And because Sarah’s story was riveting I’m giving this book 5 stars instead of 4 with my 4 1/2 actual rating (I deducted only half off for Julia’s lack of depth), because it was a fantastic, although disheartening story.

 

*NBFor those unfamilar with the Vel d’Hiv capture, even France liked to keep it under wraps for decades, ashamed to speak of their part in thousands of Jewish deaths. The roundup was the largest French deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.  Vel d’Hiv and how it began with the German occupation in France.

 

©DGKaye2020

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46 thoughts on “Sunday Book Review – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay – #HistoricalFiction

  1. This book sounds right up my street, Debby. I love historical fiction and write my own although I usually infuse mine with a supernatural twist.

    The atrocities of war don’t always have to relate to the physical violence, but the atrocities of mankind that instill fear in those living daily struggling to survive is equally frightening, sometimes more than a hand or a stick being struck against them. – Amazing words and very true.

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  2. Thanks for your review, Debby. This sounds like a great read, even if you did give it only 4 1/2 stars for Julia’s lack of depth. I thoroughly enjoyed the Tattooist of Auschwitz (as commented on the cover) so that recommendation and yours have put it on my list. 🙂

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  3. This book sounds like my kind of read. I took a class from a Jewish college professor who was the lone survivor from his family. When the Nazis invaded his family’s home, the only reason he survived was that he was well-hidden. The other family members were discovered and killed. You don’t forget stories like that, and I’ve always been curious about how someone can have so much hate in their hearts to do those type of atrocious acts.

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  4. The story sounds riveting. I have a hard time reading these heart-wrenching stories that are “true” despite being fiction. And yet, like you, I have a hard time turning away and end up feeling so moved. Thanks for sharing your review of this profound book. 🙂

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  5. I am certain I have read Sarah’s Key and have reviewed it too with 5 stars, but darn if I can find my review. It’s all about retrieval, isn’t it? I’ll return if I succeed in finding it – ha!

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    1. Now, that’s interesting, lol. I didn’t notice any writer friends who reviewed on Goodreads except Amy, whose review caught my attention on the book. Perhaps you didn’t review on GR? 🙂

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  6. Wow, this sounds like an amazing book, Deb. Thank you for sharing your review! I will be adding this to my TBR. I see it’s made into a movie. I had best not watch until after I read it.

    p.s. thanks for stopping over at the blog today. Hugs.

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    1. Hi Lis. So glad to see you pop by, and glad I resigned up for your blog that disappeared on me. Yes, I’d never even heard of the movie, only the book. But now that I read the book, I’d love to see what they’ve done with the movie. Hugs flowing to you. ❤ xxx

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  7. Great review. I read this book when it first came out and loved it. I actually found the contrast between a privileged present-day woman and a girl struggling to deal with atrocities part of what I liked. The movie wasn’t bad, of course never as good as the book.

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    1. Thanks for adding to the conversation Darlene. I’m curious to find the movie now to see how it compares with the book, although I’m sure the book was much more detailed. 🙂 xx

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  8. I’ve watched the movie (I see the picture on the cover) based on the book, and it was a very moving story (horrifying as well) but didn’t realise it was adapted from a novel. Thanks for the recommendation, Debby.

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    1. Oh wow, I’ve never even heard of the film til I read the book Christoph. And so glad I read the book first. It would be interesting to see what they chopped out in the movie. ❤

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  9. This sounds very intriguing. I’ve read several fiction and non-fiction books on the Second World War. Part of it was to learn more about what my father experienced as a soldier in the Canadian Army at that time. I’ll make a note of this one and if I ever get through my to-read pile, I look it up. Thanks.

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  10. Hi, Debby,

    That’s a beautiful review. I love that you talk about all the feelings of despair, rage, and disbelief that bubble up reading a book like this. I remember after reading it that I couldn’t get the image of Sarah’s little brother out of my head. It still haunts me. I found this to be, literally, a life-changing book.

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  11. Thanks for the intriguing review. I was perplexed with the last sentence, of the paragraph quoted below which made no sense to me. I assume you have left out a crucial word. Could you enlighten me, please?

    In Julia’s investigation to try and solve what happened to Sarah from 1942, she travels from Paris to a farm community in Orleans, back to Paris, and then Italy where a lead takes her. When she returns to Paris she must deal with her newly discovered pregnancy that her philandering husband isn’t too excited about. Until she grows a pair and leaves him (finally) and moves back to New York.

    Until she grows a pair of what?

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  12. Thank you for this honest and in-depth review, Debby. I like historical fiction as well and would enjoy this story, but probably, at the same time, also question the personality of the protagonist. I’m pretty sure you already read “The Nightingale” by Kirstin Hannah. Same time period, similar topic, and a few inconsistencies and character flaws in my opinion… I don’t remember wether you reviewed it. If so, it might have spurred me to pick up that book! 🙂

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      1. If you haven’t read it, I’m pretty sure you will like it! Other than some minor time inconsistencies (that only perfectionistic writers would pick up on :-)), it is a good book, covering themes you enjoy!!

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