BOOK REVIEW: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

//BOOK REVIEW: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

BOOK REVIEW: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

Ten year old Sirka’s world is a happy one. She has loving parents and a fun-loving four year old brother whom she adores. But all that changes on the night of July 16, 1942 when German-occupied Paris is forced to give up it’s Jewish families. Up to this point the Germans have only taken away the men of the family. However on this particular night they grab entire families. Sirka, not knowing what all of this means, thinks to save her little brother Michel by locking him into a secret cupboard with his favorite toy and a flashlight. It is her intention to come back for him after she and her family are released. She drops the key to the cupboard into her skirt pocket.

The next few weeks are a blur of confusion as Sirka and her family are taken to the Velodrome d’Hiver, a large sort of coliseum, where everyone is packed in without food, water, or any of life’s basic needs. Within days many die and others become sick. At last the women and men are separated. The men are bussed to a camp from which they are taken by cattle car to Auschwitz where they are ultimately put to death. Sirka and her mother (who by now has retreated into her mind) are taken to a different camp where the children are separated from their mothers. The mothers, like the men before them, are soon herded into cattle cars and shipped to Auschwitz as well. The children will soon follow. But Sirka and another girl manage to escape the camp with the help of a French guard. Throughout this time Sirka has only one driving thought, to return to the family’s home in Paris and release her brother who, she fears, has learned to hate her for not coming back sooner.

Fast forward sixty years to the anniversary of this awful event and meet Julia Jarmond, an American married to a Frenchman. She is a journalist who knew little to nothing about the Children of the Vel d’Hiv. Through her research she learns the story of Sirka (Susan). The story of this child soon consumes her and she is driven to learn all that she can. The facts, well-hidden from the world, lead her on a quest from France, to the United States, to Italy, and finally back to France. Julia learns that there are secrets her husband’s family know but refuse to reveal; secrets that entwine their lives, and ultimately Julia’s, with the life of Sirka (Susan).

This is a powerful story, one that taught me more than I’ve ever known about the cruelties of World War II. The young girl Sirka, whose story we follow, proves to be one of the strongest characters I have encountered in fiction. Although Julia, the American journalist, proves to be the catalyst for the story, I would have preferred to hear the story through Sirka’s own voice (as in early chapters of the book). The personal mid-life crisis that Julia goes through adds little to the story. To be fair, though, Julia is a strong character in her own right.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learned quite a bit more about a chapter in history that I had heretofore only heard bits and pieces about. Well researched; well written.

Rating: MMMMm
By |2017-05-18T21:35:34+00:00April 30th, 2012|Book Reviews|0 Comments

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