Posts Tagged ‘sarah’s key’

Sarah’s Key

 sarahs key4 Sarahs Key

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups, in which the French police arrested thousands of Jews and held them under inhuman conditions at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, before transporting them to Auschwitz. The story is told from the viewpoints of two people in different time periods: a ten-year-old Jewish girl who is part of the roundup, and an American-born French journalist, Julia Jarmond, who researches the story in 2003.

Sarah’s Key draws readers in effortlessly with its dramatic opening – the police drag the little girl and her mother out of their apartment while neighbors watch silently. Meanwhile the girl has locked her four-year-old brother in a secret cupboard to save him, assuring him she will soon return. Juxtaposed with the girl’s story is Julia Jarmond’s narrative. As Julia learns more about what happened to the child, troubling secrets about her own French husband and his family come to light.

The first half of Sarah’s Key is absolutely riveting. The plot is suspenseful, moving and tight, the pacing perfect. A Jewish child’s  innocence being gradually eroded, from her time at Vélodrome d’Hiver to her return to her brother, is beautifully portrayed, as is Julia’s emotional and cultural conflict as she learns more about the Paris roundup and her own family.  

However,  the major climax takes place midway through the book. The narrative loses steam after that; events appear somewhat forced and rambling.  It isn’t clear why Julia is so traumatized by the idea of her husband’s family living in the apartment where the Jewish girl once lived, or why she desperately tries to find the now-grown girl and her acquired family. There is a second revelation of sorts towards the end, but the construction seems amateurish compared to the first. Several one-dimensional characters who serve no clear purpose are also scattered through the book.

Perhaps my expectations are too high from having read Holocaust books like “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Boy in Striped Pajamas, but I’d rate Sarah’s Key a “Must Read But Borrow”.

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