Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 295 pages
Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 54 minutes
First Published: 2006
A decision made in an instant can change the course of so many lives. Just before Sarah and her Jewish family are arrested in Paris in 1942, Sarah locks her little brother in a cupboard, assuming she will be back soon. Now 60 years later, as journalist Julia Jarmond investigates the past, she learns volumes not only about that fatal day in history but also about herself.
When I mentioned I was reading Sarah’s Key, I got a million messages that it was the best and most heartbreaking book ever. Suffice it to say that my expectations were sky high, and, unfortunately, were not fully met. Don’t get me wrong, the premise of Sarah’s Key is beyond sad, but not in a sob your heart out way. Admittedly, I already knew the tragic plot event before I read it. Otherwise, the rest of this World War II novel was interesting and taught me new aspects of the war, but I wasn’t nearly as gripped as I expected to be. You win some, you lose some.
Paris, July 1942: Ten-year-old Sarah is brutally arrested with her family in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, the most notorious act of French collaboration with the Nazis. but before the police come to take them, Sarah locks her younger brother, Michel, in their favorite hiding place, a cupboard in the family’s apartment. She keeps the key, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s sixtieth anniversary, Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, is asked by her Paris-based American magazine to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Julia has lived in Paris for nearly twenty-five years, married a Frenchman, and she is shocked both by her ignorance about the event and the silence that still surrounds it. In the course of her investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connects her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from the terrible days spent shut in at 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.
Writing about the fate of her country with a pitiless clarity, Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and denial surrounding this painful episode in French history.
Quotes from Sarah’s Key
How was it possible that entire lives could change, could be destroyed, and that streets and buildings remained the same, she wondered.
You’re playing with Pandora’s box. Sometimes it’s better not to open it. Sometimes, it’s better not to know.
When would he realize that it wasn’t his infidelity I couldn’t bear, but his cowardice?
About Tatiana de Rosnay
Tatiana de Rosnay is an author best known for her novel Sarah’s Key. De Rosnay currently lives in Paris.